SOCIETY TALK

Will people ever stop sharing nude pictures?

It's not just celebrities who are victimised, but the law is catching on

In Summary

• It all started with revenge porn by a campus student when Facebook was still new

Spread of information on social media
Spread of information on social media
Image: COURTESY

Some time in 2007, when Facebook was still brand new in Kenya and people, especially university students, were keen to be a part of the social network, an ugly part of social media was exposed to us for the first time. It was also my first semester at university.

“That’s her!” a classmate nudged me on the arm and pointed. As I looked over to the girl I was referred to, I recognised her as the girl from class who always wore clothes two sizes too small. “Her?” I asked in amazement. “Yes, she’s the one with the nude pictures circulating in the hostels,” my classmate replied.

As it turns out, the whole thing was a nasty revenge mission orchestrated by the girl’s ex-boyfriend. The ex sought to take revenge on the girl by posting intimate pictures of her that they had taken together during their relationship.

 

The photos made their way around campus before being shared on the Internet. At that point, I remember couldn’t understand the idea of somebody posing nude for the camera. Or how a man would have the guts to share nude photos of somebody on social media.

By the end of the week, the news had spread through the country like wildfire. The girl and the school’s name were dragged through the mud, as newspapers reported on the incident. A popular columnist in the Pulse pullout of the Friday Standard even addressed the issue at length, where he talked about the girl in question reaching out to him, asking him for advice on the matter.

 

A social media platform like Facebook was very new at that time in Kenya. As we relished in the wonderful aspects of a great new world it opened us to, social media had also given us a glimpse into its treacherous underbelly. At that point, two things had become quite clear to new social media users in Kenya. Firstly, Facebook could not only be used to post about all the wonderful things, but it could be used to destroy people. Secondly, it was an important primary example to young girls to avoid nude pictures at all costs…

…or so we thought. Over time, as the internet and social media platforms became more mainstream, people lost themselves in the new world. Regular folks and celebrities alike have fallen victim to cybercrime. Their personal information, as well as nude pictures, has been shared widely on the Internet.

A recent celebrity to be caught up in this scandal is Amazon founder and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos. Bezos was being blackmailed by an American tabloid, who had procured evidence of his sordid communications with his mistress, including nude photos of himself. You would think a billionaire tech expert would know better, but apparently when it comes to love and lust, no one is wise.

Luckily for such chumps, the law is now playing a major role in controlling cybersecurity. Because even if one is dumb enough to send nude photos, the law protects them if those photos are used to cause harm. In Kenya, under Article 28 of The Cyber Security and Protection Bill 2016, a person who is caught sharing nude photos of others on the Internet will be sentenced up to 30 years in prison or fined up to Sh300,000 or both.

Currently, a Mombasa-based resident, Omar Seif, is facing the law after he was charged with taking and sharing explicit videos and photos of his ex-lover on social media.