The 2017 Kenyan techno-legal issues watch list

  1. Election laws amendments

In Kenya, the election mood is rife. The Christmas holiday period was awash with debates on amendments to the Elections Act, 2011 and the special house sessions in Parliament. The issue being a proposed amendment to Section 44 of the election law to allow for manual back-up. The interesting part will be the legal implications of the entire process and its contribution to jurisprudence in the event of election petitions.

  1. Hate speech online

Speaking of politics, online hate in Kenya tends to be ethnic-political. People post all manner of stuff on social media. Just like in the US, there will be a lot of false political news which will most likely raise tensions. The challenge will be on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to apprehend and ensure prosecution of all those who will engage in hate speech online. Past incidences have shown that apprehending anonymous perpetrators has not been a difficult thing for security officers.

  1. Internet shutdown

Looking back at the 2007/08 post-election violence and how hate speech fanned the flames of conflict, there is a general fear of an internet shut down during the election period. During the special Parliamentary sessions in December, the phone signals were jammed and the internet was shut around that area. That sent a strong signal that this year, the government may not shy away from shutting down the internet especially during the elections period. African states like Uganda and Ethiopia have been quick to shut down the internet. The overall effect of these steps are yet to be quantified and be known.

  1. Electronic filing of suits

Other than politics, Chief Justice Maraga mentioned in one of his first speeches after being sworn in that filing of law suits will soon be digital. This will be interesting development as it follows the WhatsApp serving of Cyprian Nyakundi by National Bank of Kenya. The plaintiff was unable to locate the reknown blogger and the High Court granted leave for substituted service of the sermons to enter appearance by way of email, newspaper advertisement and WhatsApp.

  1. Blogs vs Mainstream media

Technological disruption is also affecting the media business. With blogs popping up everywhere, the risk of fake news is real as observed during the recent US elections. Many fake stories on Donald Trump were all over the internet, written by individuals who were simply after advertisement money. The issue of click baiting false stories has put social media giant on the spotlight and it has reacted by changing it policy on article links shared on the platform.

Going into an election, many fake stories will surface and it is up to the readers to check its credibility. The Constitution of Kenya in Article 34 provides for the freedom of the media but subject to the conditions that limit freedom of expression. While the media is under the Media Council of Kenya, blogs do not fall under this ambit. Thus making it a tall order when it comes to enforcement of credibility in their news.

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