Kenya: Coming Soon – New Law Against Social Media Thugs

kenya star
Shaffie Weru, Huddah Monroe and celebrity deejay Pierra Makena.

They say lightning does not strike twice, but for celebrity deejay Pierra Makena, the intrusive wave of identity theft on social media platforms has left her feeling helpless, twice.

In January Ms Makena’s Instagram account was taken over by “some Tanzanian guy” who uses it to spread false information about the celebrity

“I had to hire a cyber security firm to get it back, but it was re-hacked after only a week. This guy really seems to like my account,” Ms Makena said on Wednesday.

FAMOUS KENYANS

She is among famous Kenyans, including socialites Vera Sidika and Huddah Monroe and journalists Shaffie Weru and Mark Masai, who have had their social media accounts stolen or reproduced by people seeking to ride on their fame for commercial and other reasons.

In the age of social media, famous people can make a living as influencers for various products and companies because of their huge following on social media, and such parallel accounts make it difficult for them to get jobs. Their plea? Do something.

“I would like the government to put in place systems to make it harder for these people (hackers) to do this. I believe prevention is better than cure, so they should look for ways to control these people,” DJ Makena told the Nation.

And Parliament appears to have heard her cry, and those of many other Kenyans, famous or not, who have fallen victim of cybercriminals.

The Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation has proposed that riding on other people’s identities on the Internet and sharing obscene material on such social media applications as WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram, be criminalised and those found guilty of the offence fined up to Sh3 million or three years in jail.

SENT TO JAIL

The committee further wants any person who intentionally makes use of a person’s name, business name, trademark, or domain name used by any other person on the Internet without authority fined Sh2 million or sent to jail for two years.

The proposals are contained in the report of the committee on the Computer and Cybercrime Bill, 2017, which is currently being debated in Parliament.

The Bill, sponsored by the Leader of Majority Aden Duale, also seeks timely and effective detection, investigation and prosecution of computer and cybercrimes.

The proposal on the sharing of intimate pictures comes in the thick of a storm created by MPs who recently complained of being cyber-bullied and getting unsolicited nude pictures to their mobile phones.

But, away from the MPs, Mr Weru, the journalist, was the subject of blackmail last year when a hacker got the login credentials for two of his social media accounts as well as his e-mail. He was told to give the hacker Sh30,000 for each login or else have all his information plastered on the Internet.

Other celebrities have had their photos and names used in fake social media accounts used to con people, especially those looking for jobs.

Television journalist Mark Masai in February complained on his official Facebook page of a person using a name similar to his and posing as him on social media.

FAKE ACCOUNT

“This Mark Masai Nassau is a fake account and I have nothing to do with it. I am rarely on Facebook and someone just brought it to my attention,” Mr Masai posted on his page. The fake page has over 13,000 followers and uses his photographs.

During the debate in Parliament yesterday, Mr Duale and Minority Whip Junet Mohammed told the House of how a woman they did not name has made MPs afraid of using their phones while with their colleagues or family members as she has been sending them her nude photos.

“I have been afflicted,” Mr Mohammed said. “I even have the pictures in my phone…. We have been bullied, seduced and the careers of some politicians have ended due to cyberbullying.”

Two weeks ago Mr Wazir Boniface Chacha was charged on crimes related to cyberbullying and trying to extort money from members of Parliament. He is accused of soliciting money from MPs disguised as Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege.

And in May last year, a middle-aged woman committed suicide in Nairobi after she was bullied online by members of a Facebook group after posting about the defilement of her three-year-old daughter.