Hackers will face fines of up to Sh20 million and up to 20 years in jail under a new law to tame cyber crime being prepared by the government, Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has said.
Mr Mucheru said the security agencies would need training on how to handle crimes assisted by information technology while judicial officers would also need to upgrade their knowledge of such matters.
He said the punitive punishments are contained in the Computer and Cybercrime Bill, which is being prepared and is yet to be presented to the Cabinet for approval.
“The number of people using social media for foul reasons is not as many as those using social media for good so we don’t want to shut down social media,” Mucheru told the Energy, Information and Communication Committee.
Mr Mucheru came under pressure from members of the committee led by chairman Jamleck Kamau, the MP for Kigumo, who demanded to know what the government is doing to clamp down on the spread of hate speech through social media.
Banks have also been having a hard time dealing with hackers who access their systems and siphon money, while government agencies have had their websites defaced from time to time.
Mr Kamau said law enforcement agencies are having a hard time because of the ruling by the High Court that a section of the law used to punish those who use social media to spread hate and falsehoods had been declared unconstitutional.
The government previously charged online hate mongers under the offence “misuse of a licensed communication gadget” but that was later found to go contrary to the provisions of the Constitution on free speech.
“The ministry must find a way to make what was declared unconstitutional constitutional,” said Mr Kamau.
Moyale MP Roba Duba spoke of his frustrations with the messaging application WhatsApp, which enables group communication.
“I have had people include me in groups that I don’t know what they are for. When I ask, I find the group is there for the sole purpose of insulting me. I pull out and they put me back. Is it possible to come up with a way this can be stopped?” he posed.
Nyatike MP Eddick Anyanga said a fellow MP was recently in trouble after false allegations against him were posted on social media.
“Last week, an MP was in tears. He went home, had a cup of tea with his wife, who is also a lawyer and she confronted because an opponent had posted something very bad, saying that he is having an affair with a woman,” said Mr Anyanga.
The committee criticised the proposal by the cabinet secretary that the law, which is being prepared, should be ready within the next six months. Mr Mucheru’s concerns that there is a Bill on cyber crime being prepared by a senator were also dismissed.
“Six months will be too late. As we head to the elections, it is heating up. Things will get worse. Do it so that come campaign time, everybody will know it is punishable to put bad things on social media,” said Mr Kamau.
Members of the committee agreed and asked Mr Mucheru to submit the Bill as soon as possible.