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Cybercrime law cuts down to size keyboard outlaws

Mercy Mwai @wangumarci

The impunity and abandon with which Kenyans operate on social media and the Internet has been narrowed by threat of harsh jail terms and hefty fines contained in a new law signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday.

Cyber bullies, online pornography peddlers, hackers, bloggers and ordinary Kenyan social media users now face tough penalties and massive fines running up to millions of shillings and long jail terms if found in contravention of the computer and cybercrime regulations.

Following President Uhuru’s  assent  to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill 2018, those found culpable would be hit with between Sh5 million and Sh25 million varied fines, or be jailed and fined.

Peddlers of fake news and pedophiles who use popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp to spread dirty or hate messages will also not be spared.

Corporate bodies will also face harsh penalties, including a fine not exceeding Sh50 million for involvement in cyber crime, while any person who at the time of the offence was a principal officer of a corporate body will be liable to pay a fine of five million or serve a three-year jail term.

According to the new law, publishing, sharing, downloading, circulating, possessing child pornographic content through various electronic means will attract a maximum fine of Sh20 million or 25 years in prison or both.

On the other hand, sharing fake news in print, broadcast or over a computer system and propagating hate speech that discredits the reputation of a person will attract a Sh5 million fine, a two-year prison sentence, or both.

Sending obscene, or intimate images including making a depiction available for distribution through phones or through any other means of transmitting data to a computer will attract a fine not exceeding Sh200,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Unauthorised access to a computer, thus infringing the security measures with intent to gain access, will lead to a fine of Sh5 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, while those who access a computer with an intention to commit further offences will be liable to pay Sh10 million or a 10-year jail term or both. An offence of  unauthorised interference with a computer system will earn one a Sh10 million fine or five years’ imprisonment.

Fraudulent use of electronic data that could lead to loss of property, misrepresenting facts which can cause another person to suffer damages, fraud, electronic messaging of fake news, manipulation to short-change or overpay will draw a Sh200 000 fine or two years’ imprisonment.

“A person who intentionally publishes child pornography through a computer system; produces child pornography for the purpose of its publication; or possesses child pornography in a computer system or data storage medium, is liable, on conviction, to a  fine not exceeding twenty million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twenty-five years, or to both,” reads the new law in part.

The Act also deals with computer forgery, computer fraud, cyber harassment, publication of false information, cyber-squatting, identity theft and impersonation, interception of electronic messages or money transfers, willful mis-direction of electronic messages and fraudulent use of electronic data among other cybercrimes.

Online banking where an individual’s issues false transactions will cause a Sh200,000 fine or a jail term not exceeding two years or both.

Cyber harassment, including stalking and bullying that is likely to cause a person apprehension or fear of violence is harshly deal with, attracting a Sh20 million fine  or 10-year jail term.

Cyber terrorism, including accessing a computer to perpetuate  terrorism will attract a fine of Sh5 million fine or imprisonment to a term not exceeding 10 years.

Cyber con men will be fined Sh20 million  or imprisoned for  10 years, or both. On the other hand computer forgery resulting in inauthentic data loss will draw a Sh20 million fine or a term not exceeding 10 years.

Cyber espionage will see a person being liable to  imprisonment for twenty years or to a fine not exceeding Sh 10 million while cyber-squatting which includes use of names and business trademarks owned by another person will draw a Sh200,000 fine or a jail term of two years as will do impersonation and identity theft.

Inducement to deliver electronic messages will see a person fined Sh200,000 or a jail term not exceeding two years or both while intentionally withholding messages delivered erroneously, including electronic mail, electronic payment, credit and debit cards will see a person pay a Sh 200,000 fine or face a jail term of two  years.

Acquiring, importing, selling  of hacking software and equipment including computer password, devises , access coded will draw a Sh10 million fine or a prison term of five years.

The Act which establishes the National Computer and Cyber Crimes Coordination Committee also facilitates international co-operation in dealing with computer and cyber crime matter including expedited disclosure of preserved traffic data.

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