from: joachim omolo ouko
News Dispatch with Father Omolo Beste
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 14
Joan from Nairobi writes: “Fr Beste what do you say about Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. He has been taken to court over hate speech via social media. Do you think the government will succeed in controlling social media because I believe it is not only Kuria who has been accused there are many people using social media for propaganda.”
Thank you for this important question Joan. Although the Kenyan government has said it will be monitoring users of social media and taking action against anyone found inciting violence or using hateful or ethnic language, controlling social media is one of the toughest missions the government can tame.
Much of the ‘violence’ shifted to the online space, especially Facebook and Twitter following the post-election violence in 2007/08. In November 2012 alone, 28 per cent of a sample of 792 online statements contained one or more examples of “dangerous speech” – a term contain direct threats.
According to Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, the investigating cases, collecting evidence and prosecuting offenders requires both legislation and technology that are not yet available in Kenya.
His suggestion that the police might now need a dedicated “cyber crime unit” to monitor social media can also not be possible. One challenge has also been the reluctance of judges to accept electronic evidence in court, and some cases have been dismissed as a result.
There is a need to amend Kenyan law to be in tandem with technology to enable admission of electronic evidence. As per now it very difficult to monitor and collect evidence on social media, this is because the authors of such stories in most cases are anonymous and post hate messages from discrete sources.
Examining the content of internet posts suggested that a lot of these conversations you are seeing on social media are not really hate speech if you apply the law. That is why going after everyone who posts threatening messages is almost impossible. You cannot even remove them.
But even if police were to be to investigate what is written on social media, they are not always going to be there to investigate every small conversation that turns abusive. You should also know Joan that the current climate favors hate speech because Kenya is struggling with many problems at the same time.
While Innocent Kenyans have been killed, the government is only dealing with the interests of members of their own ethnic group. This creates a situation where people find themselves in a difficult situation they then become responsive to propaganda.
It explains why the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, which was set up in 2008 as an independent institution to prevent a repetition of the post electoral riots, has not been able to stop propaganda and hate speech on social media.
Again Joan, you should also know that it is not only on social media that propaganda and hate speech are being used. You are ware that since the Lamu attacks, hate leaflets have been distributed warning specific ethnic groups to leave the area, with the latest one in Naivasha.
Just yesterday two bloggers have been accused of calling for the killing of Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, triggering fierce debate, with the House demanding their prosecution. Mr Omar had raised the matter, saying that Willy Omosa and Mugo Wa Wairimu had posted messages on social media calling for his killing in a way similar to that of controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Abubakar Sharrif alias Makaburi.
One fact must be accepted that both the Twitter and Facebook episodes mark what appears to be a shift in online culture, not only in Kenya but global. Globally, throughout the Web’s history, a certain amount of bad behavior has come to be expected, be it intentionally provocative online trolling or earnest hatred spewed more freely because of the ability to do so anonymously.
Hate speech online can be understood as antisocial oratory that is intended to encourage persecution against people because of their race, color, religion, ethnic group, or nationality, and has a substantial likelihood of causing harm.
Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
Tel +254 7350 14559/+254 722 623 578