The Kenya information and Communications (Amendment) Bill 2019, in seeking to regulate social media usage in the country, has proposed more stringent bill to blogging and the use of social media.
As proposed, the bill will affect social media users including content creators, Facebook and WhatsApp group administrators in what some consumers have termed as contagious governments acts, following the adoption of such rules in the neighboring Uganda and Tanzania countries.
The proposed Bill defines a blogger as a person who is registered by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) to write for a blog, and blogging as collecting, writing, editing and presenting of news or news articles in social media platforms or on the Internet. It further defines social media platforms as those that include online publishing and discussion, media sharing, blogging, social networking, document and data sharing repositories, social media applications, social bookmarking and widgets.
The Bill seeks to amend the Kenya Information and Communication Act to allow for the following;
- The communications authority of Kenya will license anyone who wants to establish a social media platform, upon payment of a fee.
- The precondition for licensing could include
- Establishment of a physical office in the country
- The social media users should be registered using legal documents
- The licensee shall keep the data of all the users
- Ensure that the users are 18 years and above.
- The Communications Authority can access and collect any data from social media platforms for Group administrators
- Inform the Communications Authority of their intentions to form groups in platforms such as WhatsApp/Facebook.
- Vet content that is posted to the group
- Approve members who want to join the group
- Regulate content that is posted
- The communication authority shall license bloggers, and keep a register of bloggers.
- Blogging without a license is punishable by imprisonment to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding 500k.
By accessing data from social media platforms and having social media group administrators report their intentions to the Authority beforehand, the Authority seeks to clean up the fake news menace that has hitherto corroded the values of journalism in the country.
“The problem of fake news is complex and can only be solved if we use reasonable means,” said Ryan Wilson Onyango, an advocate of the high court. Adding; “The authority needs to educate people on how to navigate the digital world responsibly, and find a balance between regulation and stifling innovation.”
The new stringent bill will help the government of Kenya to alongside curbing fake news, tame misinformation, privacy rights and the abuse of digital platforms.
A sample of Kenyans had diverse opinions about the proposed bill. This is what some of them said;
“Is the government intending to harvest from where it did not plant? Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest have their owners, and they have never asked the public to pay any fees to use their platforms,” commented Okoth Ouko, Twiga Telekom.
Ouko also noted that the legislator would not come up with a bill seeking to make the public pay fees for using platforms that do not belong to the government. Instead, the government should create its platforms then bill people who seek to use it.
A lecturer of a private university in Nairobi, who sought anonymity, totally disagreed with the leap terming it ill. He noted that it was a scheme to rip an already burdened Kenyan off their hard earned income in the flare of hard economic times.
“Let the government get revenue by taxation from its services and products and not by imposing bills on social media consumers,” he said.
While it is good for the government to generate more revenue for it’s operations, it shouldn’t overstretch an already overtaxed Kenyan noted Eng. Ondari, Founder & CEO, Asoko Engineers. The government should instead invest in making tax returns as simple as *Paybill* payment without a complex accounting *jagons* that intimidate the taxpayer.
“We Kenyans wish well for the country and can participate in a simple process of tax payment. Dubai imposes tax on Whatsapp and other international platforms but there are still ways round these processes, I don’t see why Kenya should be different,” said Ondari, adding; “Kenya ranks with Nigeria and China as countries with highest live game streaming addiction, denying football clubs potential billions in shillings. How unique must social media and blogging platforms be to thrive?”
In Uganda, a similar bill was passed and citizens have to pay a certain fee in order to use the affected social media platforms.