While Internet Without Borders welcomes the interest of President Kenyatta’s government, whose Jubilee party was cited among clients of now infamous Cambridge Analytica, in acting against the spread of disinformation online, we doubt that adding to the current legislative inflation will solve the issue.
Various examples worldwide show that anti-Fake News laws can be and are used for censorship, willingly or not. The NetzDG law passed in Germany in 2017 is criticized for placing the responsibility of deletion of alleged problematic content on the shoulders of content platforms, and their non-transparent algorithms. In Malaysia, a man was disproportionately jailed because he said in a Youtube video that the Malaysian police took long to intervene after his friend, a Hamas activist, was shot dead. He later apologized for his comment, citing a « moment of anger ». In opposition to these countries, the Supreme Court of the Gambia recently ruled that provisions on the sharing of fake news online were unconstitutional: after 20 years of dictatorship, the country is aligning the legal corpus with democratic and international standards.
In addition, the Cambridge Analytica scandal taught that the psychological aspect is essential: one is more likely to share content that speaks to his/her psychology. Protection of privacy and personal data of citizens should be among the priorities in the fight against Fake news and manipulation. In a recent report on digital rights in sub-Saharan Africa, Internet Without Borders reminded that Kenya still lacks a data protection act.
“In 2016, the UN stated that Human Rights online and offline have the same value. By adopting laws to specifically fight against disinformation on the Internet, countries like Kenya contradict the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution A/HRC/32/L.20. Most countries already have the legal tools to fight against fake news offline and online, this legislative inflation adds more problems than it solves. Solutions to fake news are elsewhere”, said Julie Owono, Executive Director of Internet Without Borders.
Internet Without Borders urges Kenya to explore other solutions to the misinformation and disinformation problem, including media education, and support to fact-checking initiatives, and to urgently adopt a data protection act.