Have you ever dealt with an extremely frustrating situation and voiced your anguish via your social media page, whether it was on Facebook or Twitter? Lucky for you, chances are that you don’t live in Kenya, an African country that puts its citizens in jail for promoting violence and/or hateful language via these sites.
According to Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communication, those accused of committing that type of crime can be fined up to $11,500. And it seems it is pretty easy for these hate-spewing individuals to be caught, as the government in the country has the ability to closely analyze social media to check for less than positive remarks being made.
“I saw a very bad tweet yesterday,” Ndemo said in a recent article. “There is a process called triangulation and it is actually very easy to know who is doing it. Most people probably are doing thinking it is not easy knowing who they are.We however have the capacity to do triangulation and very easily get to the person and that is what we are going to do with the names that we have.”
The issue of where the line should be drawn between a human’s rights to voice their opinion and comments that then go above and beyond that point and could face persecution is an issue that has been around since the inception of these communication platforms.
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Here in the United States, a major challenge arises when looking at what people can say and can’t say online. Professor Duncan Bloy, a media law expert at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, commented, “There was a survey conducted by one of the big global law firms at the end of last year, it found that 65 percent of respondents, and they were mainly young people, had no idea of the legal consequences of going online.”
Looking at some related cases, one of the first that comes to mind is the lawsuit involving Paul Chambers. After he was found guilty of sending a stupid tweet, Chambers then went on to request an appeal and ultimately won. What did he do? After he saw that an airport was closed due to snow and was extremely disappointed that he wouldn’t be seeing his girlfriend, he tweeted, "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
Although many would look at this as a poor excuse for a joke, his actions on the social media site led to his arrest which in turn caused Chambers to then lose his job as a financial supervisor.
In a separate ordeal, a student who made the fateful decision to make fun of football player Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he went into cardiac arrest was forced to serve out a 56-day jail term.
In my opinion, what ultimately needs to happen is a group of thought leaders within the social media space need to sit down and come together in order to create a standard set of rules in regards to what is and what isn’t acceptable online behavior. If there was a set of regulations governing the social media space, then it is likely most people would not go against these outlined items.
As social media usage will only increase in the near future, the time is now to enact these key mandates before more people find themselves in the big house.
Edited by Allison Boccamazzo