Social Media Acts That Could Land Users In Jail

by Lawyer Alex

The upsurge in use of social media over the years has restructured the way Kenyans communicate and carry out their day-to-day activities.

However, the internet poses a greater risk to many users accessing the platform. As such, a number of criminal offences associated with the internet space could see some users put behind bars.

Here’s a look at some of the social media offences that could lead an online user to either pay a hefty fine or serve jail time.

Publishing of fake news

The law imposes heavy penalties on individuals spreading fake news. According to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, 2018, a user, if found guilty, stands to face a maximum jail term of ten years or pay Ksh5 million fine or both.

“A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with intent that the data shall be considered or acted upon as authentic, with or without any financial gain, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Ksh5 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.

“A person who knowingly publishes information that is false in print, broadcast, data or over a computer system, that is calculated or results in panic, chaos, or violence among citizens of the Republic, or which is likely to discredit the reputation of a person commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to both.”

Sharing of pdf copies of newspapers 

The simple act of forwarding copyrighted digital publications on social media can land one in jail.

According to the Copyrights Act of 2001, the suspects would have to pay a fine five times the market product of each shared copyrighted product or Ksh1,000 for each infringing product.

The Copyright Act repudiates downloading and making copies of the newspaper for either financial gain or distribution of the illegally obtained content through all forms of social media as well as emails.

For a user to share any newspaper articles through digital means, they require authorization from the rights holder, in this case, the media company that owns the newspaper.

Publishing offensive posts

Bloggers and social media users could pay a fine of Ksh20 million or serve a prison term of 10 years, or both, for harassing a person through the internet, of by making indecent or offensive posts.

An earlier instance of this was the arraignment of blogger Edgar Obare over his alleged scandalous exposés on well-known figures including actors, influencers, musicians and politicians could extend to his followers.

Though Obare’s lawyer, Titus Munene Kinyua revealed that Obare would be charged with exposure of private data in contravention of Section 72 of the Data Protection Act, the offence also captures elements of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill 2018 that criminalizes abuse of persons on social media.

The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) moved to court to file a petition against the Computer and Misuse Cybercrimes Act, 2018, claiming the act violated the right to media freedoms and expression.

Judge James Makau, dismissed the case, on Thursday, February 20, stating that the petition was unwarranted.


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