Facebook, WhatsApp groups admins to seek CA clearance

Malava MP Malulu Injendi, the Bill's sponsor. [Boniface Otieno, Standard]

Facebook and WhatsApp group administrators could soon be required to obtain licences from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) before setting up social media groups.

In some of the most radical proposals to regulate the social media in the country, a Bill headed to Parliament this week proposes that users and group administrators who allow offending content on their social media platforms be jailed.

If the Bill sees the light of day, social media group administrators will be required to inform CAK of their intention to form the groups and shall be required to control undesirable content and discussion on the platform they control.

“A social media user shall ensure that any content published, written or shared through the social media platform does not degrade or intimidate a recipient of the content," states part of The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

“Any person who contravenes the provision of this section commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings, or to an imprisonment of a term not exceeding one year,” the bill states.

The Bill, sponsored by Malava MP Malulu Injendi, will be introduced in the National Assembly this week.

Should it be passed, Facebook and WhatsApp users will need to closely monitor what is posted on their walls.

WhatsApp group administrators will also need to keep tight control on their members and kick out those who post offending content.

The owner of the media platform will also be required to carry out due diligence to ensure that all its users "are of age of majority.”

This locks out minors from joining or posting comments on social media platforms controlled by adults.

Facebook allows a user to censor content they deem undesirable before the post becomes public. 

The Bill defines social media platforms to include "online publishing and discussion, media sharing, blogging, social networking, document and data sharing repositories, social media applications, social bookmarking and widgets."

Also to be affected by the regulations are bloggers who the Bill defines as those involved in "collecting, writing, editing and presenting of news or news articles in social media platforms or in the internet."

Those who run blogs without CA's authority could spend up to two years in jail or pay fines of up to Sh500,000.

The regulator will have a register of bloggers in the country and develop a bloggers' code of conduct.

To establish a social media group, the Bill proposes that one must have a physical address and data showing all its members.

“The new part will introduce new sections to the Act on licensing of social media platforms, sharing of information by a licensed person, creates obligations to social media users, registration of bloggers and seeks to give responsibility to CA to develop a bloggers' code of conduct in consultation with bloggers,” reads the Bill's memorandum of objects and reasons.