Cyber bill set to tackle Fake News

A new law set to tackle the scourge of fake news is expected to be introduced to Parliament in due course. The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill (the bill) gazetted on 16th June 2017 introduces the following language in clause 12:

“(1) A person who intentionally inputs, alters, deletes, or suppresses computer data, resulting in inauthentic data with the intent that it be considered or acted upon for legal purposes as if it were authentic, regardless of whether or not the data is directly readable and intelligible commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to fine not exceeding ten million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.

 (2) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1), dishonestly or with similar intent—

(a) for wrongful gain;

(b) for wrongful loss to another person; or

(c) for any economic benefit for oneself or for another person, is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to both.”

The bill attempts a catch-all situation but mostly describes the sensationalizing of news as well as individuals manipulating their academic credentials. It makes more sense in trying to curb this which has put a number of politicians in the spotlight as well as a few cases involving a fake doctor, a fake lawyer and a fake CEO).

Fake news is defined as falsehoods presented as news. The use of this term has been applied to legitimate news sources, whose primary asset is their credibility. But perhaps the biggest reason in pushing for gazettement must have come from the fake news factor that many believe impacted the 2016 United States presidential election. If interpreted politically, the bill could result in a chaotic free-for-all of mudslinging with candidates and others being accused of crimes at the slightest hint of hyperbole, exaggeration, poetic license, or common error and thus a recipe for amendment. And campaigns heating up, bloggers and social media administrators should be careful.

The bill awaits Parliamentary approval.