Draft Bill outlines stiff punishment to tame cyber bullying and crime

 A man simulating hacking into a computer. If the Bill is passed, it will be illegal to take and distribute pictures of any person without their consent and knowledge [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

Kenya: Taking random photos of people and posting them on your Facebook wall could, in coming months, land you in jail or cost you hefty fines.

A draft Bill on cyber-crime and computer related crimes makes it illegal to take and distribute pictures of any person without their consent and knowledge. The Bill is also particular on protecting children, with heavier penalties for people convicted of stalking minors online.

A section on cyber stalking says in addition to using electronic communication to harass and intimidate other people, posting other people’s photos on social networks and other online platforms will be deemed as a crime punishable by up to three years in jail and up to ten years if the victim is a minor. “A person who is convicted of the offence referred... is liable to a fine not exceeding Sh300,000 or to an imprisonment term of three years or both,” reads the draft Cybercrimes and Computer Related Crimes Bill.

“If the offence referred to... involves a minor, the penalty is a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to an imprisonment term of ten years or both.” The Bill drafted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, also criminalises spamming – sending unsolicited emails to a large number of recipients – and phishing – where malicious individuals will make attempts to get sensitive information like users’ names, passwords or credit card details.

Spamming, which is a nuisance to many Internet users but appears fairly innocent especially given that some spammers are just marketing their products, will attract a jail term of up to three years or a fine of Sh500,000. Phishing will attract similar penalty. It will however, be higher if the perpetrator used the information got through the act for economic gain. Many Internet users have fallen victims to seemingly innocent emails asking them to follow a link to update their personal details. Many people have lost large chunks of money through disclosure of their credit card details.

Companies targeted

“Where the phishing attack results in economic gain for the sender, the penalty upon conviction is a fine not exceeding five million shillings or an imprisonment term of seven years or both,” reads the draft Bill. Firms operating within the country will also need to up surveillance of what happens on their ICT systems, as the Bill proposes holding to account the companies and their directors for cyber-crimes perpetrated using their equipment. If convicted of a cyber and computer related crime, companies will pay a Sh50 million fine and its directors and management will be assumed to have issued orders that led to their employees committing the offences.

“Where a body corporate is held liable for an offence under this Act, if the offence is committed on its instructions or for its benefits. The body corporate shall be punished with fine not exceeding fifty million shillings or the amount involved in the offence whichever is the higher,” reads the bill.

“Where a corporation is convicted of an offence, or is fined under this Act, any person who is a director of, or who is concerned in the management of that corporation shall be considered to have committed the same offence and is liable to be fined as if the person authorised or permitted the same or omission constituting the offence.”

The Bill also covers hate speech, where there is growing concern that many people are using the veils of Internet to spread vitriol now feared to be a key factor polarising the country. It has proposed a Sh1 million fine or a five year jail term for perpetrators of hate messages.