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Cyberbullying, the Dark Side of the Internet

Cyberbullying is the use of digital technologies with the intent to offend, humiliate, threaten, harrass or abuse somebody. In other words, it is bullying only that it takes place using electronic or digital technology.

Electronic or digital technologies includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Some known examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

Cyberbullying affects both adults and kids and can move away from the digital spaces and continue in person. Additionally, it can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; the messages be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience over the internet e.g. through social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, hence difficult to trace the sources or delete the messages.

In Kenya, it is indeed becoming a problem. Victor Kapiyo from Lawmark Partners LLP spoke recently on KTN Kenya’s Youth Cafe, about the legal challenge of dealing with Cyberbullying online.

Speaking alongside two victims of cyberbullying namely, Muthoni and Kaz, he pointed out that there was no legal framework to tackle Cyberbullying, save for new draft proposals contained in the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill 2016. The proposals in the bill if adopted by Parliament, would see the penalty for Cyberbullying set to a fine not exceeding twenty million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to both.

He also pointed out that when faced with a cyberbullying attack it was important for victims to deal with it immediately by among others: documenting the incident and saving the evidence; reporting the incident to authorities e.g. Directorate of Criminal Investigations or Police Cybercrime Unit; seeking help from trusted persons or counsellors; and, calling out the attackers on their conduct. He also noted that it was important for the people using digital technologies to create awareness about cyberbullying and not to be part of the bullies by sharing, liking or retweeting content that constitutes bullying.