Safaricom holds it won’t tolerate “hate speech” hucksters

Kenya’s technology giant and cellular network operator Safaricom has announced it will disconnect subscribers involved in hate speech off its network ahead of the country’s general elections scheduled for March next year.

The company’s chief Bob Collymore yesterday declared Safaricom will not entertain hate speech campaigns. He said: “In case we receive any complaint from the Internet or SMS, we will stick to rules and regulations then proceed to disconnect the subscriber.”

In 2007, SMS was used as a medium of spreading negative information, Safaricom says. Currently, with the inclusion of Internet, “the area is a bit diversified” but the cellphone service provider has vowed to do a keen job on hate speech regulation.

Commenting on the polls, Collymore said the election process is important in any country hence people should not take advantage to cause violence.

“Kenyans should learn lessons from the past post election violence. Don’t allow anybody to used you to cause damage but be patriotic to your nation and neighbors,” Collymore said.

The last General elections resulted to mass killings and property loss. According to March 2008 report on Kenya Post-election Violence (PEV) by UN Human Rights group, over 1,200 people were murdered, thousands injured and over 300,000 displaced. Cases of sexual violence were reported and 42,000 houses and businesses destroyed.

Aside from Safaricom, several organizations are currently carrying out peace campaigns in the country including National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and Mkenya Daima (Forever Kenya). The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in its weekly newsletter said it will act on all the reported cases of hate speech perpetrators.

A study by National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) carried out in the last two decades found broadcast facilities were used in spreading hate and bigotry messages – influencing the recipients to commit hate-motivated crimes. The study also found that telephones can be used to intimidate, threaten, and harass individuals and organizations.

NTIA’s research however suggests that hate speech represent a minimal percentage of electronic communications media and that the critical remedy is public education, rather than governments and institutions fostering censorships and regulations.

Safaricom has set aside approximately KSh2 billion (US$ 23,680,000) for its anti-hate speech campaign.

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