Legal issues to avoid on social media

About 1.44 billion people use Facebook and twitter has approximately 316 million users. Bloggers are also coming up and there are over 260.5 million blog accounts in place with the number set to rise given the popularity of blogging. Our Constitution grants everyone freedom of expression which includes:-

  • freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas.
  • freedom of artistic creativity.
  • academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

In the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, every person ought to respect the rights and reputation of others. However, before you post what’s on your mind or tweet that comment, here are a few legal issues issues you may want to avoid.

Improper use of system

The law states that a person who by means of a licensed telecommunication system sends a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or sends a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person shall be guilty of an offence and liable to pay a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.

Hate speech

Hate speech arises when a person:-

  1. uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material.
  2. publishes or distributes written material.
  3. presents or directs  the public performance of a play.
  4. distributes, shows or plays, a recording of visual images.
  5. provides, produces or directs a programme.

which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior. Such a person is liable to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.

Intellectual Property

While the technology of the internet may easily allow copying of text, graphics, photos and logos,doing so  may violate copyright law. Using any third party content without permission can result in both criminal and civil liability.

Ethical matters

It is extremely important to exercise due care in what you state, particularly about third parties. Ensure that you do not make any statements that could be considered defamatory. Defamation arises when a statement made injures another’s reputation. Lawsuits alleging defamation based on online content are generally treated by courts in the same manner as those involving traditional offline defamation claims.


The law grants every person a right to privacy which includes the right not to have information relating to their family or private affairs unnecessarily required or revealed or the privacy of their communications infringed.

Case examples:

  • Allan Wadi, a student, was arrested for hate speech and jailed in January 2015 for posting negative comments on Facebook about the president.
  • A journalist by the name Abraham Mutai was arrested following tweets he posted on corruption in the Isiolo County Government. He was charged with the misuse of a licensed communication platform to cause anxiety.


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