REINING IN BULLIES

Senators want to tax social media, tighten regulation

The legislators said children have become the soft target for social media bullies

In Summary
  • The senators want to amend the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes (Amendment) Act to rein in rogue social media users to protect children from cyber bullies.
  • They also want to impose tax on foreigners and international firms operating social media platforms in Kenya.
Nominated Senator Falhada Iman who wants to regulate social media and tax foreign social media platforms.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Nominated Senator Falhada Iman who wants to regulate social media and tax foreign social media platforms.
Image: COURTESY

Nudes, hate speech and vulgar or inciting social media posts could land you in trouble if the Senate succeeds in regulating social media.

And they want to tax foreigners and international firms operating social media platforms in Kenya.

The senators want to amend the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes (Amendment) Act to rein in rogue social media users to protect children and other innocent users from cyberbullies.

“Let us as a House and country stand up and protect, especially our growing children. Even adults who are responsible must be brought to order," Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula said.

Terming unfettered social media a menace that will tear the social fabric if not checked, legislators said children have become soft targets for bullies.

Nudes, obscene photos and videos and hate speech are posted online.

They described the bullies as criminals who use and take advantage of social media to corrupt morals, pervert society and spread hatred.

“This is something that will bother anyone, parent or leader who is concerned about the welfare of our society. It is a menace that if we do not take care as a society, then it can cause chaos and so much trouble,” Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said.

The push to toughen the laws to regulate social media stemmed from a personal statement by Nominated Senator Falhada Iman on cyberbullying and the effects of children’s exposure to technology.

“The prevalence of online harassment among Kenyans is high with 33 per cent of social media users in Kenya having personally had a negative online experience. These include abusive behaviour, offensive name-calling, impersonation or purposeful embarrassment," Falhada said.

“Severe forms of cyber harassment can have serious consequences on the lives of the victims. Some 21.1 per cent of Kenyans have experienced the more severe forms of online harassment,” she added.

Reacting to the statement, the senators pushed for the escalation to a bill to amend the law and effectively regulate social media use. 

“I urge her to do further research and come up with good proposals to amend the Cyber Security Act so we are able to put a stop to all these vices," Cheruiyot said.

He added the amended bill should also impose a tax on social media platforms.

“We can generate revenue from the videos that young people are doing on Tik Tok, Twitter and posts on Facebook. These end up creating revenue for these companies that do not pay a single tax in this Republic," he added.

The senators warned that if not checked, reckless and rogue social media users may trigger and spread hate that can trigger violence ahead of the 2022 General Elections.

“We have seen cyberbullies bullying judges and literally everybody in the course of their duty. We have people out there who spend their time and energy on nothing but bullying,” Wetang'ula said.

“My concern is that other than pornography, somebody somewhere is going to use the internet to spread hatred during the 2022 General Elections.

"It can cause mayhem in this country if we do not monitor the use of the internet,” Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said.

According to a 2020 Kenyan social media landscape report, the most prevalent social media platforms were WhatsApp 89 per cent, Facebook 81.7 per cent and YouTube 51.6 per cent.

Other platforms increasingly favoured by young Kenyan adults are Tik Tok 8.8 per cent, Telegram 15.5 per cent and Facebook Messenger 37.4 per cent.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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