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Use social media platforms responsibly

By Bethwel Kaino | October 5th 2016

Social media is becoming increasingly popular in dissemination of information. It is the quickest means to relay information and receive feedback in the contemporary society.

But it is likewise dangerous to the socio-economic livelihoods of Kenyans if abused. Some individuals with ill intentions against their colleagues are abusing it irrespective of positions in the society.

Politicians use bloggers and activists to settle their scores by posting negative messages aimed at tarnishing the images of their opponents. This calls for the Cyber Crime Police Unit to tighten its noose and go for the hatemongers.

In the latest incident where an activist is accused of an alleged slanderous remark he posted in his twitter account linking Deputy President William Ruto to the death of businessman Jacob Juma without evidence shows that social media platform is being abused. It was only recently that there was misuse of the social media when Mr Ruto was said to have collapsed in his office while on official duty.

However, social media had done its harm. This has encouraged defensive arguments by the bloggers who have capitalised on the social media to bring back the outdated yellow journalism practice, which has no space in the current society. The DP’s case aside, other senior personalities have also been character-assassinated.

Family units have not been spared and some stable marriages have ended up in ruins through negative attacks on the social media. Although the Cyber Police Unit might have played its part in cracking down on perpetrators, a lot still needs to be done to instil discipline in an otherwise useful medium of communication.

News is a perishable commodity and Kenyans are eager to hear what is going on in any part of the country but bloggers have misused social media to mislead Kenyans.

The right to information does not mean peddling falsehoods. It was wrong for players on the social media to portray Mr Ruto as somebody of ill motive when in fact he is not.

The era of character assassination is long gone and Kenyans need to be told the truth and not to be misled.

It should be clear that posting something that is threatening or abusive to a person irrespective of status in the society is a criminal offence.

This is why police should continue to monitor comments on social media. Any offensive comments must be investigated and action taken against those responsible.

There are messages, which are beyond the pale of what is tolerable in the society as they are grossly offensive.

Those bloggers and individuals linked to circulation of offensive tweets need to come out clearly instead of resorting to character assassination. It is unfair for some individuals to harbour intense hatred against the Deputy President.

The fact remains that the Constitution protects our right to express our thoughts in whatever circumstance but the same laws and the penal code also qualify our rights.

The law stipulates that we have a right to personal dignity and respect. The laws also criminalize alarmist publications, broadcasts that undermine public authority, false information and defamation.

Likewise, all leaders, individuals and right-thinking members of the society have freedom to privacy as enshrined in the Constitution, which should not be abused by those whose aim is to tarnish their rivals.

But unless the operations of social media are closely monitored, it would cause more harm than good to Kenyans.

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