Home Columnists Online Harassment Still On The Rise; Why We Need To Be Open About The Dangers

Online Harassment Still On The Rise; Why We Need To Be Open About The Dangers

by James Irungu
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online Harassment

Having an array of digital platforms have massively influenced how, when, where and why we communicate with each other partaking in a huge impact on young adults as they endeavour to circumnavigate through the digital error in a healthy and safe way.

According to statistics from Jumia, Kenya currently has a population of 51.58 million, of this a total of 43.3 million have access to the internet despite Google identifying only 13 million as active internet users. The rapid growth has been facilitated by more affordable devices and declining mobile data plans.

Currently, smartphone use is ubiquitous with over 90 per cent of users. In this, social media dominates as the most accessed platform with WhatsApp having 74 per cent, Facebook 70 per cent and Twitter 50 per cent.

Despite the increased penetration and usage of technology parading a wide range of benefits, there is also an increase in the question of the safety of individuals when it comes to online harassment. According to statistics from the mcfeeintel security and the cyber-bullying research centre, it shows that over 87 per cent of today’s youths have witnessed cyberbullying and nearly 69 per cent have experienced it, 41 per cent of that being girls while 28 per cent being boys.

Conferring to the Association of media women in Kenya and Article 19 of Eastern Africa, it reveals that common online harassments happen to most women in the course of their work. These acts cut across cyberstalking, sexual harassment, surveillance and unauthorized use and manipulation of personal information, including images and videos.

With the rising numbers of harassment, every age group has become vulnerable to cyberbullying including politicians and journalists also escalating to media houses and entities as a way of airing disagreements where bullies take advantage of the anonymity of the internet. On Twitter daily, there is a 90 per cent possibility of someone being ‘roasted’ or accused of behaviour that might be untrue or lacks weight. This results in depression, suicide or deactivation of the platforms.

As a recommendation from public figures, ignorance or confiscating technology is one of the solutions which have acted as unfeasible and outdated thinking, since technology plays an integral part of life today, productive keys need to be put in place to address and come up with solutions rather than ignore the realities of the digital phase.

Other solutions have been posed to address this issue that if not well curbed will be a calamity with the growth of technology every day. Recently, Adobe developed a tool to identify photoshopped images after recognising the ethical implications of technology. This will be useful in identifying manipulated pictures aimed to jeopardise a person’s image. When this action happens, it is wise to talk to well-informed individuals as a way of guidance, fighting back will cause more harm than good. It is wise to also avoid sharing information with individuals or pictures online that might be used against you. Despite personal surveillance involving the authority to take up action is also essential due to personal safety.

In spite of these manual and technological solutions, psychological preparation is essential to agree that we have a major problem in the development of technology and that online harassment can affect anyone having an impact on mental health to the extend of committing suicide. The prevention of cyberbullying is highly neglected in Kenya, the Kenya Information and Communications Act CAP 411A does not directly address cyber-bullying as an offence. It is high time we get to revise our statute books to legislate against online harassment so that we can encourage a conducive environment online.

When this section is amended, agencies such as the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the Kenya Police ought to then lead in generating awareness and enforcement. This may be a solution to eliminate this escalating problem.

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