New Bill targets hate mongers ahead of election

Persons using the Internet to spread hate speech, incite the public to violence, or intercept communication will face a penalty of up to Sh20 million or 20 years jail or both, if a proposed Bill is enacted into law.

The draft Computer and Cybercrimes Bill, 2016 drafted by the Ministry of information, Communication and Technology (ICT) seeks among other things to contain the use of social media to spread hate mongering ahead of the 2017 General Election.

Appearing before Parliamentary Committee on Energy and ICT yesterday to give more insights on the bill, Information Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru told the committee the proposed law is meant to align the law to advanced forensic procedures of investigating increasing cases of cybercrimes estimated to cost economies tens of billions of shillings a year.

In addition, he said that his ministry is holding consultations with State agencies on security to ensure punitive measures on cyber criminals.

“Misuse of social media is increasingly becoming a threat to national cohesion but we are working with all arms of the government including the Judiciary to learn how to verify sources of such information as well as bring to book those using technology to try and bring the nation to disarray,” he said.

Mucheru explained he had incorporated international and local professionals to draft the Bill that, if passed, will help tame propagators of hate speech through social media ahead of next year’s General Election.

He said appropriate systems and training has been contemplated to empower IT professionals in the ICT ministry so as to help them audit information displayed on social media and identify abusive content throughout the election circle.

“We don’t want to get rid of social media by switching it off, we only want to deal with culprits who think that they can hide behind technology,” he noted.

“We will ensure that those trying to use technology to bring this country into disarray are dealt with accordingly,” he warned.

In the proposed law, crimes such as bank fraud, money laundering, hate speech, theft of identity and child pornography which have increasingly being committed online, will also be dealt with.

Others cybercrimes that have been captured in the bill are unauthorised access to a protected computer system, phishing, botnets and, cyber-stalking and bullying.

“We have extensively consulted and we are still going to consult the public, but we are talking of a maximum of 20 years imprisonment and Sh20 million fine,” the Cabinet secretary stressed.

On his part, committee’s chairman and Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau told CS Mucheru to fast-track the preparation of the Bill to disciplined hate mongers as the country heads towards the polls.

“It should take at most 45 days for you to bring it to the house, because it should be made criminal for people to misuse social media to spread propaganda,” he said.

Kamau decried that a recent High Court ruling that declared unconstitutional a section of the law that security agencies used to pin down individuals using social media to spread hate speech had ‘clipped’ the hands of police officers giving a lifeline to perpetrators .

A member of the committee, Moyale MP Roba Duba enumerated his frustrations to the cabinet Secretary, key among them the messaging application WhatsApp, he said had misused by a lot of his ‘opponents’ to blackmail and propagate falsehood against him.

“Mr CS, I have had people include me in groups whose purpose I don’t know only to discover later the group’s sole purpose is to insult me. I pull out and they put me back. Is it possible to come up with a way this can be stopped?” he asked.

Mr Mucheru assured the legislator that his concerns will be addressed.

Noting that the new bill has been necessitated by alleged attempts by 77 Chinese nationals to build a cyber command centre in the posh Runda estate in December 2014 and hacking of 103 government websites in January 2012.

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