In Summary
  • Modern information technologies have loopholes that give hate speech purveyors a stage away from the eyes and ears of both the government and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.
  • First, an enabling legal framework is critical. Second, in the case of online content, the Internet itself is a borderless and anonymous outfit.
  • The government can deploy software and techniques that legally intercept Internet traffic by “harvesting” content and filtering it as well as tracking the sources of undesirable social media content.

In the current digital world, the social media creates virtual meeting points for discussion, debate and exchange of information.

On the positive side, it fosters freedom of expression, but the opposite is that it is an avenue for hate speech.

The government has in the past expressed concern about the role of modern technology, especially the phone and the Internet, in disseminating information whose content borders on hate speech.

In the build-up to the controversial 2007 elections, some emails and SMS messages in wide circulation created animosity among tribes and individuals.

Those behind the spreading of the messages took advantage of the information access frontiers of mobile phones and the Internet.

Modern information technologies have loopholes that give hate speech purveyors a stage away from the eyes and ears of both the government and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.

From politics, terror attacks, corruption scandals, and every day events, the voices on the Internet will never lack a tinge of hate speech. There are active discussions on Facebook, Twitter, and email. If an expert was to filter the content, several hundreds of Internet users would be at pains to explain the impact of their transmitted information.

The Internet and mobile phone technology have played a positive role in democratisation.

MASSIVE INTERCEPTIONS

However, their dark side cannot be ignored. The case for monitoring online content is a hot subject all over the world. On one hand, it is a means of protection against cyberspace-related threats and on the other, it can be a loophole for unwarranted access to private data through spying.

The second scenario is what has sparked outrage.  

Regulation issues in regard to modern ICTs are indeed a challenge to governments and other concerned parties.

First, an enabling legal framework is critical. Second, in the case of online content, the Internet itself is a borderless and anonymous outfit.

And for the modern ICTs such as smart devices, every day comes with fresh innovations that at times take regulators back to the drawing board.

In the real sense, if a country decides to mess with the freedom on the Internet, it turns into a case of state censorship with the accompanying global criticism, like what has been happening in China and the Arab world.

One option of catching Internet hate speech suspects would involve massive interception technologies.

The government can deploy software and techniques that legally intercept Internet traffic by “harvesting” content and filtering it as well as tracking the sources of undesirable social media content.

This would be a daunting task for the Kenyan police, who seem ill-equipped for this kind of job.

Besides, without proper legislation, regulation, and implementation, most cybercrimes go unpunished.

The country needs to come up with online content policies that are conducive to both the ordinary home Internet user and corporate clients.

Dealing with hate speech on modern technological frontiers deserves a pro-active approach so as to serve the socio-political preventive function, which is more valuable than dealing with the repercussions and consequences of technology-bred intolerance.