Kenya’s Proposed Law Requiring Clearance of WhatsApp, Facebook Admins Raises Concerns

Kenya's Proposed Law Requiring Clearance of WhatsApp, Facebook Admins Raises Concerns

A proposed bill, The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019, intended to curb the misuse of social media has raised concerns from the public that it is a threat to free speech.

The Bill, sponsored by Malava MP Malulu Injendi, will require online users to seek clearance with the Communications Authority, failure to which could attract KSh500,000 fine or a two-year jail sentence.

“The objective of this Bill is to amend the Kenya Information and Communications Act to provide for regulation of use of social media platforms,” says Injendi.

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Clause 3 seeks to introduce a new Part to the Act on regulation of social media platforms. The new part will introduce new sections to the Act on licensing of social media platforms, sharing of information by a licensed person, creates obligations to social media users, registration of bloggers and seeks to give responsibility to the Communications Authority to develop a bloggers code of conduct in consultation with bloggers – Malava MP Malulu Injendi.

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“The Commission may on an application in a prescribed manner and upon payment of a prescribed fee, grant a licence authorising any person to establish a social media platform for purposes of communication,” reads part of the bill.

If passed and enacted into law, it will cover all persons involved in “Collecting, writing, editing and presenting of news or news articles on social media platforms or on the internet.”

“A social media user shall ensure that any content published, written or shared through the social media platform does not degrade or intimidate a recipient of the content, is fair, accurate and unbiased,” states part of The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The Bill re-introduces some of the suspended sections of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Law 2018 into The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in a bid to regulate social media use in the country.

William Kisang, chairman National Assembly Information, Communication and Innovation Committee has warned that the Bill could be challenged in court if it is approved by legislators.

“We will ask the sponsor to explain how it will work. Social media has no boundaries. What is the practicality of licensing all social media administrators in the country? “Even for MPs, we are added to WhatsApp groups to contribute to social causes such as funerals. So if one is added to the group today, and the funeral is next Saturday, where do we get the time to seek clearance from CA? asked Kisang.

In 2018, the Bloggers Association of Kenya challenged the legality of the controversial Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act leading to the suspension of 26 contentious sessions.

Article 19 who are interested parties of the case had also asserted that Section 5 of the Act is trying to reintroduce the device management system that was found unconstitutional by the High Court in the case of Okiya Omtatah Vs the Communication Authority of Kenya.

BAKE convinced Justice Mwita that the 26 sections of the law threaten the freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom, and security of the person, right to privacy, right to property and the right to a fair hearing.