Kenyan bloggers to be traced and prosecuted over hate speech

Every election year, the Kenyan Cyber space is filled with vitriol and name-calling over bloggers' election preferences. In the run up to the 2007/8 post election violence a number of popular online forums were aflame with all manner of insults and inflammatory statements between supporters of the then presidential candidates Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki. 

This election however have redefined the term 'blogger' as it relates to online interactions among Kenyans. It is no longer just about discussion forums and the blogger/wordpress websites that were used in the previous election. The major online battlefields for the Kenyan blogger today is dominated by Facebook comments and Twitter tweets. A few discussion forums have survived, such as mashada, nipate and kenyanlist where the online political venom is gathering pace between the supporters of Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, the top two presidential contenders for the 2013 Kenya general election.

There is always a debate whether the online decadence fuels the resultant physical post election violence or it is itself fueled by the already charged hate atmosphere on the ground which finds a vent in the perceived anonymity the online forums gives. What is clear though is that the online virulence resonates and is symptomatic of the general psyche of the Kenyan voters.

So far, the government agencies charged with responsibility of taming this vice, such as the National Cohesion and Integrity commission (NCIC), has had none or half-hearted attempts in tackling this emergent crime, probably due to lack of effective tools and air tight legislation necessary to secure a conviction.

The National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring has thrown its hat in the ring with the approach of using media houses with popular Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and comments sections to block and censor hate related comments. They will also use CCK to track computers used to post such comments as they push for the requisite legislation to act on such websites used to perpetuate ethnic hatred. 

Obviously it is not a well thought out strategy. Most of these commentors and posters use fake identities, some are not within the jurisdiction of CCK and the media houses on top of some being biased towards certain candidates value these comments since they raise the popularity of their sites and pages. There is also the other hurdle of handling the expectations and dealing with the non-online population that is already ethnically charged and waiting to burst in defense of their president-in-waiting son.

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