Senders of offensive, threatening, abusive or profane text messages on the Kenyan mobile networks will face harsh punishment, in new regulations unveiled on Wednesday by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).
The industry regulator has developed strict guidelines to prevent the transmission of undesirable bulk political content through mobile phones in a bid to curb the use of the gadgets to spread hate speech and discrimination.
The new rules demand Content Service Providers sending political messages to submit such texts for vetting to the mobile network operator at least 48 hours before sending the message.
The submission will include the verbatim content of the political message, a signed authorisation from the political party or individual sponsoring the political message, and certified copies of registration documents of the political entity or identification documents of the individuals.
Subscribers who individually send text messages deemed as inflammatory, divisive and hate speech shall be tracked down and charged with incitement to violence.
The penalty for persons found guilty of using mobile platforms to threaten, incite, abuse, insult, and stirring up ethnic hatred face a fine not exceeding one million shillings or imprisonment for a jail term of not more than three years; or both.
“In light of what happened in the 2007 General Election, it has now become necessary to regulate the transmission of bulk political content over mobile networks in order to insulate the county from political chaos,” said Mr Francis Wangusi, director general of CCK.
“Mobile network operators will now exercise greater oversight over political messages transmitted through their infrastructure,” said Mr Wangusi at a press briefing on Wednesday.
With seven out of out every 10 Kenyans having access to a mobile phone, the gadgets have emerged as an important platform for the transmission of bulk messages by companies and politicians seeking to marketing themselves.
CCK has also outlawed the transmission of anonymous political messages and telcos have been given the right to refuse to transmit political messages found to be offensive to the law.
To further protect cell phone subscribers from receiving spam messages, the fresh rules ban transmission of political messages to customers who have not subscribed for the service.
“Content service providers will be required to provide evidence of such consent immediately upon request by mobile operators, government agencies or the regulator,” CCK said in a statement.
The guidelines were developed by CCK, the industry regulator in consultation with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Registrar of Political Parties, mobile network operators and content service providers.
The rules take effect immediately and a monitoring team drawn from the various stakeholders has been set up to ensure strict compliance by all players.