It is said that he who was bitten by snake fears a piece of string. Therefore it is best to begin with a disclaimer.
I have been a victim of actual hacking into my personal email account so I speak from that perspective. I also had the luxury of doing quite a bit of my growing up sans the www so I can remember a time without it.
This disclaimer is important because most folk have no idea how it feels to have your privacy violated and also cannot envision a life without the internet.
In my opinion, the prevalence of internet in Kenya has not lead to a corresponding increase in common sense and good judgement. As my pal pointed out, the internet has magnified the dumbness and stupidity that some folk have. Most of the internet users are inevitably young and since they grew up with the computer, their people skills and street smarts are not very developed. Thus they tend to believe all that is written online, there is an amazing lack of compassion exhibited and they do not or they chose to ignore the bigger picture.
There has also been in the recent past an emergence of a blogging culture in Kenya which is an amazing phenomenon. The problem is that some of the bloggers have no concept of fairness, objectivity and public good. The result is half truths, allegations and rumours been posted as gospel truth online.
In the past one week several online occurrences have led me to give thought to privacy in a digital age. The questions I pondered on were: Is it possible? Is it necessary? Where does one draw a line?
The incidences were varied by location and also context. An online website posted a story about a leading Apostle who allegedly sexually molested a member of his congregation. A woman accused a top gospel musician of date rape and this was exhaustively discussed on social media. The personal email addresses and cell phone numbers of all Kenyan MPs were put up on website. The American government dossier on drug barons in Kenya was made available. The payslip of popular DJ was posted online.
As you can see it was a mix and there could be arguments made for and against publication of each story or info. Been someone interested in governance, I feel that the leaking of dossier on drug barons is timely and in the public good. I however feel that allegations of rape and sexual harassment have no place being discussed on social media (just open any of the blogs, read the comments made and your blood will race at the insensitive comments posted) since they require sensitivity and maturity be accorded to the victims. Someone else who is interested in the life and times of Kenyan “celebrities” will thoroughly enjoying their dirty linen been shown in public and will gleefully follow their fall from grace. Different strokes for different folks and I totally agree that both intellectual content and un-serious content have a place on the shelf.
What I have a problem with is the invasion of privacy and the mudslinging that is emerging.
Let us first tackle privacy. In this digital age all my information is available at the touch of a button. If you have access to my bank’s system, you can access my account statement. If you have access to the hospital’s system, you can access my full medical report. If you have access to my phone company’s system, you can access my call logs. Now imagine all this information was accessed by unscrupulous individuals and posted online. The shoe is pinching isn’t it? It is suddenly not as fun as laughing at DJ X or Apostle Y or Diva Z. Today it is the “celebrities” feeling the pinch but by natural progression it is safe to presume that one day it will be an ordinary Kamau who will be the victim. What if it is you?
Then there is mudslinging. You go to bed today with a solid reputation and wake up tomorrow to numerous blog posts accusing you of all manner of indiscretions. The more you fight it the guiltier you appear. If you are innocent and the post is taken down the damage has already been done. The internet + social media + gullible folk is like dry grass + a matchstick. Hoaxes turn to gospels and spread like bushfire. The link will have been shared and re-shared and the story will have joined Nairobi’s folklore. Again it is fun to read the fall of grace of the “celebs” but what if the shoe was on the other foot?
I have not even touched on cyber bullying and the hacking, both which are emerging and which will obviously be prevalent as internet density increases.
These my friends are the days of our lives. The computers are in control and the World Wide Web is also the Wild Wild West!
Is there a problem? Methinks yes. What is the solution? I have no idea! The creation of laws governing online conduct as a deterrent is what jumps to mind but that would tend to stifle all and sundry. Just look at the Alcoholic Control Act which has interfered with my ability to enjoy a cold one at my convenience. I shudder at not been able to voice my opinions freely so censorship for me would be a loss-loss scenario.
I’m putting this out there for discussion as I feel that it is something worth a discourse.
What do you think?
GOD BLESS KENYA!