Cyber-bullying A Growing Trend In Kenya

By Joel Chacha

Keyboard cyberbullying942013
Illustration by Alex Bihm/ The Collegian

Social media has become an essential part of almost everyone’s lives; it affects how we conduct ourselves online and even the language we use as we go about our day-to-day lives. As illustrated below in a YouTube video dubbed A Day in the Life of Social Media courtesy of dEEVOiR Holdings many social media users are invariably bombarded by social media apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and the 100s of forwards from spammy messaging apps like WhatsApp.

The Cluetrain Manifesto co-actively authored by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger proposes some ways companies should engage online user through the 95 theses. http://cluetrain.com/ One of the theses that most companies leverage on is conducting conversation in a human voice. However with the introduction of boosted posts on leading online platforms like Facebook has got most companies opting for an easier way of increasing reach for specific page updates by leveraging on trending online topics. This has prompted the rise to cyber-bullying.

clue train.jpg
Picture courtesy of http://www.exceler8.com

Cyber-bullying is defined as publishing materials about a victim severely defaming and humiliating them. It isn’t something that anyone or large corporate would want to be associated with. Ironically in Kenya, many companies and personalities actively take part in it by quickly aligning their digital content to a widely known unrelated trending topic.

For instance when the waves of the #PoleKwaMwirigi tweets, retweets and Facebook jokes and funny memes on Instagram and video’s on Snapchat got into the veins of the world through Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) within a few minutes, influencers and corporates joined the bandwagon as well. With companies such as Durex, through their Kenyan twitter handle @DurexKE leading the conversation as illustrated below.

Durex
Picture courtesy of @DurexKE

The hash tag trended for four days consecutively generating 40 million impressions. The interactions on Twitter were out of this world, according to iStats that tracked the hashtag,#PoleKwaMwirigi  averaged two tweets a second between 10 o’clock in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. In the history of Kenya in the digital media space, the only trending topic that has had greater traction than #PoleKwaMwirigi  is #MyDressMyChoice, which was 1.67 tweets per second.

The hash tag #PoleKwaMwirigi started after one, Robert Kunga, popularly known as Mwirigi on Twitter received heartbreaking news that his crush Sharon Mundia, widely known as This Is Ess because of her blog http://www.thisisess.com/, had gotten engaged. Her proposal got a lot of coverage from mainstream media too.

Yuri Baraza, a renown social media influencer tweeted Ice cream parlor chain, Cold Stone Creamery the following

@ColdStoneKenya Do you have any comfort food? I have a friend who needs any consolation food at this trying period.#PoleKwaMwirigi

and they responded

@ArcherMishale @Mwirigi We feel your pain. Perhaps this will help soothe your pain… #PoleKwaMwirigipic.twitter.com/i1Jik4Qd50

Cold Stone
Picture courtesy of @ColdStoneKenya

Mobile network operator Airtel as shown in the image below offered Mwirigi a phone line tweeting

@Mwirigi Communication is key in relationships. Can we offer you a line? #PoleKwaMwirigi

Airtel
Photo courtesy of @Airtel_KE

One of Kenya’s leading broadcaster Nation television (NTV) also took part in the conversation, tweeting

“We are never going to get engaged, tune in to #AuntieBoss!#PoleKwaMwirigi

NTV
Picture courtesy of @ntvkenya

Fast food restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) tweeted

@Mwirigi you may have missed the chic but we’ve got more breasts and thighs. #PoleKwaMwirigipic.twitter.com/RehrWCRPna

KFC
Picture courtesy of @KFCInKenya

Is this not a form of bullying? Cyber-bullying is not different from any other type of bullying; it makes the victim have a low self-esteem, and in extreme causes it can also lead to suicide. Therefore, next time before you gang up with Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) on an issue thinks of the victim first.

KOTs
Picture courtesy of TechMtaa

One wonders why the Kenyan government didn’t take into account those corporates and individual that were involved in humiliating Mwirigi? Well, it is because the Kenya Information and Communication Act CAP 411A has not addressed cyber-bullying as an offense, perhaps it’s time the Kenyan government considers revising the statute books to legislate against cyber-bullying to encourage a conducive environment for all online user.

Once the section is amended, agencies such as the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the Kenya Police should take the lead in creating awareness about cyber-bullying and how to respond to it.

Be a good conversation starter online like myself

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From the extreme left Joel Chacha, Robert Mwirigi Kunga and Lianne Kiruiru. Picture courtesy of the author

 

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