TIME TO REGULATE DIGITAL MEDIA IN KENYA
Unlike the mainstream media which has sufficient regulatory framework, digital media which entails social media lacks a straightforward and precise regulatory framework. The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the Kenya Information and Communication Act for purposes of regulating digital media in Kenya due to its constant misuse and abuse.
Bloggers continue to publish fake, scandalous and unverified news and online content about individuals and institutions. Some of this biased and fake information has proven injurious to some of the business institutions hence occasioning them enormous losses. The victims of the unregulated digital media space only remain with litigation recourse whereby they bring suits under defamation and compel the offenders to pull down the fake information and apologize in public. Some of the damage incurred is incurable or takes time to recover hence causing the aggrieved persons and organizations irreparable harm.
As a result of the above risky nature of unregulated digital media space, the above-mentioned private members Bill commonly known as “the Social Media Bill” was tabled in Parliament on 2nd of October, 2019 seeking to regulate the digital media. The Bill proposes a mandatory requirement for bloggers to be licensed by the Communications Authority of Kenya. The Bill also requires a social media license to be obtained in respect of a social media platform which is accessible in Kenya by a particular social media platform operator. The license is subject to revocation where the set requirements under the Bill are not met by the operator.
The Bill does not propose a penalty or any sanction for failing to obtain the said license hence unclear on whether the license is mandatory or not. The term “social media” has been given a wide definition in the Bill hence captures any online medium that allows for online content creation and social networking. To cure the current ills of digital media space, the Bill requires social media users and content creators to ensure that their content is accurate, verifiable and unbiased among other things.
The information to be published should be one that does not intimidate the recipients of the content. The Bill if assented to law will have far reaching implications on digital media operators hence changing the business and social networking environment. Sanity will be restored in digital blogging thus minimizing the risk of online maligning and image destruction of both natural persons and legal entities.