The popularization of the term ‘fake news’ came under scrutiny and widespread use during the 2016 Presidential Elections in the United State. The term is fairly common nowadays, and at its core, it basically means that information being communicated is false or inaccurate. The drive to push such misleading pieces is a complex dynamic that is laced with the need to manipulate and shape the thought process of the masses in pushing a certain agenda.
It is highly probable that people who do not have the ability to verify news are the first victims of fake news. This can be disastrous if the information being passed is sensitive, and people who consume such content take its definitions without a grain of salt. These are daily happenings in gossip sites or publications that hardly take their time to verify the authenticity of news items.
If the President signs the Computer and Cybercrime Bill that has already undergone all the necessary steps prior to assent (that will technically make it a law, hence, actionable), then people who share fake news will be slapped with high fines for the vice.
The fines are not limited to fake news as other crimes such as sharing pornographic content, cyberterrorism, and cybersquatting (registering names of popular companies or brands as domains for later resale at hiked prices) will be met with harsh penalties.
The fine breakdown is as follows:
Sharing fake news and propagating hate speech – KES 5 million in fines or a 2-year prison sentence or both if found guilty.
Pornography – A maximum of KES 300,000 ins fine or 30 years in prison or both.
Child pornography – KES 20 million in fines or 25 years in prison or both.
Cyberterrorism – A maximum of KES 5 million in fines or 10 years in the penitentiary or both.
Cybersquatting – KES 200,000 fine or 3 years in jail or both.
The law, if assented, will help the police take action on people who harass others online too. Harassment can be in the form of cyberstalking, impersonation, catfishing, cyberbullying or trolling.
The bill’s development has been marked by multiple events that can be perceived as cyber harassment, hate speech, and distribution of pornographic content. Hundreds of compromising videos and pictures flood our chats and social media pages, so we will see whether a framework that criminalizes such activities will have a notable impact in rooting out such behaviours in the coming days.