Cyber-bullying refers to the use of the Internet and/or mobile technology to harass, intimidate, or cause harm to another person. Despite the fact that bullying is hardly a new social issue; thanks to technology advancements it has gradually evolved from the school environment and moved to social platforms. According to a report by the African Women and Children Feature Service, Kenyan schools report a much higher rate of bullying than the world average. As a social enterprise concerned with the provision of family based digital solutions, cyber-bullying is a topic we at Eveminet deal with regularly. We offer our expert insight on the face of this issue in our country and how we can combat it.
Popular Platforms Kenyans Use to Bully People Online
Many Kenyans today are either victims or perpetrators of cyber-bullying, knowingly or unknowingly. Thanks to increased digital penetration, more and more Kenyans are using digital social platforms to communicate and interact than ever before. Our world famous twitter community, commonly referred to as K.O.T. ( Kenyans On Twitter ) is one great example of how active we are online. Other famous platforms that have gained notoriety include Facebook Groups such as Kilimani Mums and Dads and Buyers Beware.
Some Famous Kenyan Victims of Cyber Bullying
Just recently, the Chief Justice of The Supreme Court of Kenya, David Maraga shared his frustrations over bloggers. He used the example of a viral meme to show how he has being harassed by bloggers and Kenyans online. His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta responded to him by saying,
H.E. President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, during the Anti-Corruption Conference
Bwana CJ we tried passing some law to help us restrain these people (bloggers) but the court told us it was unconstitutional. Like the rest of us, get used to it .
He is just one among many public figures who has come to accept cyber-bullying as a way of life. Last year, gospel musician Jimmy Gait shared his personal experience on the issue. He says he almost quit music and killed himself because of it. Quite often, when a celebrities make mistakes, online audiences are quick to judge. Challenges and memes trend almost instantly and add salt to injury. Some of the issues raised are genuine and are meant to raise awareness but the message is often lost. The masses often deviate from the problem and end up causing more harm. A good example is the “KobiCat”Challenge. Kenyans exposed media personality Kobi Kihara for stealing content and faking her online image. She became the subject of multiple jokes and blogs in a twisted form of online revenge.
Recently, some negative comments on Willy Paul’s Instagram profile turned a moment of thanks into one of sadness. He had just survived a horrifying terror attack at the Dusit Hotel, that claimed many lives and injured many more. A large number of Kenyans took to the comment section of his posts to express their disappointment over his survival. The situation got worse when Kenyans took it a step further by sharing insensitive memes that went viral.
The Legal Impact of Cyber-Bullying in Kenya
In Kenya, freedom of expression is enshrined in our constitution under Article 33 and is a universal human right. According to the ICCPR, of which we are signatories; these rights come along with great “special duties and responsibilities” that may result in some limitations, such as respect of the rights or reputation of others.
The worst part about cyber-bullying is that many people gain confidence and hide behind their online personas because there are largely unaware that cyber-bullying laws exist. The Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Bill 2018 came into effect last year May. Article 27 addresses what the issue of cyber harassment and under what grounds one may seek legal aid.
(2) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to both.Article 27 (2) of The Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Bill, Act No. 5 Of 2018, Laws of Kenya
Side Effects of Cyber-Bullying
Some of the effects of cyber bullying may have on an individual include:
- A drop in self-esteem;
- Withdrawal from society and family;
- Fear of gadgets, digital communication and social platforms;
- Avoiding work and school environments;
- Avoiding social events and gatherings;
- Losing weight or changing appearance to try and fit in;
- Inflicting self harm;
- Suicidal and violent thoughts;
- Personality shift i.e. anger, depression, crying, withdrawal
The only way to tackle cyber bullying is by creating awareness and promoting the importance of digital empathy and digital etiquette. By enforcing the same moral values we expect all people to abide by day to day online, we can ensure that we are collectively better behaved and mature when addressing posting content. And the only way for our children to embrace this, is if we lead by example. Read our article on 10 Ways We Can Prevent Cyber-Bullying in Kenya.