OKOYO GABRIEL: On cyberharrassment and it's legal implications

Okoyo Gabriel is a young lawyer interested and specializing on cyber law issues. He is the Founder of a startup known as AYOLAT (African Young Lawyers for Tech). Currently, he works at iLabAfrica-Strathmore University on matters cybersecurity, and also at Wasuna & Co. Advocates as a pupil/intern awaiting admission as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

We caught up with him as he shared with us on cyberharrassment and its legal implications.

What is cyber-bullying?

Basically cyberbullying refers to a situation where a person is being threatened, harassed or humiliated through the use of internet or digital technologies. In Kenya, the word cyber bullying is mostly used with reference to attacks targeting children online. Again, the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act, 2018 does not use the term ‘cyber bullying’, instead, the Act Provides for ‘Cyber Harassment’. Cyberharassment and Cyberbullying is just the same thing.

What are the forms/tactics of cyber harrassment prevalent today?

Of late we have seen a lot of ‘revenge porn’. We have seen sharing/leaking intimate photos, video, and conversations. Some people would literally abuse or insult you online, character assasination and attacks on personality, family or job.

Cyberbullying just like our traditional high-school bullying experiences, takes different forms. Sometimes, they use names, phrases, pictures, memes and funny videos. It really depends on the bully. The aim is to annoy or mock, or just publicly embarrass. To be a bit technical, the forms include: cyberstalking, trolling, dissing, harassment etc.

Does hacking into your social media account and posting unwanted content also constitute cyberbullying?

To a lesser extent, yes. But hacking is worse. It is unauthorized under section 14 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act, 2018. But the example you’ve given I can classify it as ‘Access with intent to commit further offence’ created under section 15 of the said Act.

In case someone is a victim of cyberbullying, what steps should he take? Is there a law protecting such individuals? And if yes, what are the provisions?

The law in place right now is the COMPUTER MISUSE AND CYBERCRIME ACT, 2018. Any vibrant and serious individual needs to download it and just see the offences listed therein. It’s one law that will affect us mostly as youths whose lives revolve around the internet.

There are many ways of reporting cyberbullying or cyber incidents in general. One can contact National KE-CIRT hotlines 0703042700/ 0730172700 or just go to their website for more details. You can also report to police, it is an offence like others. For children, the hotline number is 116.

The DCI also has a department for children- The ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING & CHILD PROTECTION UNIT(AHTCPU). It recently launched a program for child online protection as well.

Also once attacked, don’t retaliate. Use technology, for instance, you may block him/her, or just ask them to stop it. Be strong, offline and online.

What could be the defenses for cyber bullying?

Common defences could be; truth, fair comment, free speech. You say that you what you said is the ‘truth’ or it was a ‘fair comment’ or just hide under ‘freedom of speech’. Other specific defences depend on the circumstance.

How can we prevent cyberbullying?

The best way to avoid bullying is to practice and observe proper online hygiene. Don’t share what you think if shared publicly you’ll be offended. Frequently change your passwords, let them be strong ones. Always check the devices you’ve given consent to obtain your personal information. And of course avoid sharing nudes, if someone needs them, let them come for them live/ or in hardcopy.

There has been an increase in cyber-bullying cases, in recent weeks. What can we attribute this to?

The increase can be attributed to increased online presence. Most people are connected and are getting connected online. Another is lack of proper internet regulations, since most people get away with cyberbullying, so many users see it as normal. The other is anonymity of most users, and lastly is the farce/comedy that makes the attacks humorous hence most people would want to share and circulate the ‘joke’

Any final words for us?

Let’s take cyberbullying serious and report the bullies. Don’t often buy the jokes, look beyond the fun. Remember, as you laugh at that video/picture/post someone could be crying somewhere. Cyberbullying mostly would put someone’s profession/family or life in danger. Call the bully out! Observe proper online hygiene. And when a friend is targeted encourage them, stand with them. Otherwise, let’s work together to create a safer and better online environment for us all. Thank you.

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Gati Vincent

Very helpful and insightful lawyer Okoyo. Thank you

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