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Kenya to monitor social media during elections

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By MARYANNE GICOBI

Posted  Thursday, January 12   2017 at  21:27

Kenya will not shut down the Internet during the election period unless the situation gets out of hand, government officials said Thursday.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) chairman, Mr Ben Gituku said that the government would only take action if it deemed it as a necessary step to secure the country.

“We hope we will not get there, unless it gets out of hand. We do not see Internet shutdown happening,” Mr Gituku said during a press conference in Nairobi to issue guidelines on the conduct of electronic media during the elections on Thursday.

Kenyans are increasingly concerned, especially with rising political temperatures ahead of the August polls, that the government would shut down the Internet as witnessed in other regional countries.

In neighbouring Uganda, the government ordered the shutdown of popular social media platforms over “security concerns,” an action political observers said was aimed at stifling media scrutiny of the elections as well as clamping down on freedom of expression.

Similar actions were taken by the governments of Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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A recent report by social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, said eastern Africa countries are among the top violators of freedom of expression online with some ordering an Internet shutdown while others like Kenya use punitive laws to intimidate citizens.

CA’s director-general Francis Wangusi on Thursday said they were on the look-out for Kenyans in the diaspora spreading hate speech through social media.

“We are co-ordinating with international organisations to get those infiltrating from outside. We have pulled down a number of posts from social media platforms by Kenyans in the diaspora,” Mr Wangusi said, warning that “they should not assume that they have the ability to be undercover.”

The director-general said the authority has invested $5.8 million (Ksh600 million) in a social media monitoring system.

Kenya is set to hold its General Election in August this year.