Outrage over proposals to regulate WhatsApp group administrators

WhatsApp [Photo: Shutterstock]

Social media users are outraged at plans to have administrators of Facebook and WhatsApp groups obtain licences from the Communication Authority (CA).

Critics have argued that the proposal in the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is ill advised and an attempt to limit freedom of expression.

National Assembly Information, Communication and Innovation Committee chairman William Kisang warned that the Bill could be challenged in court if it is approved by Parliament.

Mr Kisang described the proposed law as "un-implementable", noting that it is neither practical nor possible to register all social media administrators.

“We will ask the sponsor to explain how it will work. Social media has no boundaries. What is the practicality of licensing all social media administrators in the country?

"Even for MPs, we are added to WhatsApp groups to contribute to social causes such as funerals. So if one is added to the group today, and the funeral is next Saturday, where do we get the time to seek clearance from CA?" asked the MP.

Kisang said The Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act passed last year had the necessary clauses to regulate social media and address misuse.

"That law is very firm and we don’t need a new law. Even if it is passed, someone will go to court and have it declared unconstitutional."

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said although the Bill had gone through all parliamentary processes before publication, it was not carefully thought out and the resultant law could be challenged in court.

The Bill proposes that group administrators take responsibility for any offending content posted on platforms they control.

“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 imprisonment of a term not exceeding one year,” the Bill states.

On The Standard digital platform, the Bill elicited mixed reactions, with majority of readers expressing outrage over the proposals.

One user compared the proposals to Uganda's regulation of social media. “We laughed at Ugandans when they passed such a law. It has now come closer home,” said Oscar Kwama.