social media facilitating self incrimination

Social media: facilitating self-incrimination

Do you know that social media subconsciously makes us expose who we are? We willingly provide personal information: names, nicknames, siblings, where we attended college, what we like, what we hate, who we love, who we are married to/engaged to, where we attend church, where we are at a given time, our home towns…. Freely, we always give that information.

For a moment, have you ever stopped to wonder how that information that you have freely given on social media can make you incriminate yourself? And do not try to be smart by opening a social media account using a fake identity. It may not work for long. Despite the fake identity, law enforcement authorities may be able to figure out your identity. This can be through the people you interact with on social media, people who may know your real identity.

I have also heard of stories where the police also set up a fake social media account and add friends/followers so that they can monitor those other people’s feed.

Just like the mob, the internet never forgets. Despite the privacy policies social media services providers have, nothing is ever completely private online. It may not matter that you have even deleted it.

Facts

Sometimes, the things we post online may be criminal. If not, the things you post may be evidence of a crime you have committed.

Here are some recent examples that made the news:

Ken wa Mwangi, a Facebook-er took to his wall less than 36 hours ago and posted something that was not only obscene, but had elements of child pornography and sexual abuse. Whereas he insists that it was just meant to humour his followers/friends, majority have labeled him a pedophile. As of today, he is under investigation by the police and there are unconfirmed reports that his employer, Kenya Airports Authority has dismissed him because his utterances are against their policies.

Anthony Njoroge Mburu is a blogger. He also goes by the alias Waime Mburu. In January 2016, on his Facebook wall, he posted something about Kiambu Governor William Kabogo being an importer of substandard eggs.

He was charged in a Mombasa court with three counts of publishing false and harmful information; after spending three nights in a police cell.

Earlier in April 2016, another blogger, David Zawadi was arrested for “peddling falsehoods about banks” through his blog.

The law

Section 132 of the Penal code states that, “Any person who, without lawful excuse, the burden of proof where of shall lie upon him, utter, prints, publishes any words, or does any act or thing calculated to bring into contempt, or to excite defiance of or disobedience to, the lawful authority of a public officer or any class of public officers is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years”

Section 29 of the Information and Communications act provides that, “a person who by means of a licensed telecommunication system sends a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character sends a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person commits an offence”

Upon conviction on the above offence, the offender is fined a sum not exceeding fifty thousand shillings or imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.

Though the laws can be said to be a means by which the government is using to muzzle the freedom of expression, until their constitutionality is successfully challenged in court, anyone can be charged on the basis of violating the law.

Here are some tips to help protect you when using social media sites:

Whereas the supreme law of the land guarantees the freedoms of speech and expression, it is important that one thinks through what they are going to post on social media. A well thought out post may not be used against you; but in the event that it is, you can well use the defence of fair comment.

Social media makes the world a small village. Be careful who you add as friend/follower on social media.

Make very good use of the privacy settings on your social media account.

Do not log in onto your social media accounts using public computers. If you must, endeavour to log out after your session. Avoid using school/work computers if you must keep your browsing history private.

Think before you post – expect that people other than your friends can see the information you post online. Remember that anything you post on a social media site may be used as evidence against you.

Bottom line, please read and endeavour to understand the basic principles of law since ignorance of the law is not a defence.

BY SAMALI BITALA

This article appears in our newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 4, Issue 5 of July 29th, 2016.  A few modifications have been made to fit the current circumstances.

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