Social media sites such as Facebook, Tweeter and Google+ have captivated many Kenyans. If you are not in updating your page or tweeting then you are not in touch with current trends. Social media gives you a ubiquitous presence. This means that your friends can converse with you at anytime and from any anywhere.
The flip side of this is that you cannot totally shut out people you don’t want to interact with. When you ‘unfriend’ someone in acrimonious circumstances, the likelihood of that former friend becoming a cyberstalker is high.
Cyberstalking is the use of electronic means to harass an individual or group of people. A cyberstalker harasses a victim through emails, phone calls, sms messages, Facebook posts and tweets. These messages are sent to the victim whether they are at home, school or work.
Cyberstalkers intrude into a victim’s life in frightening or intimidating ways making the victim feel there is no escape.
The effects of cyberstalking should never be under-rated. The psychological effect can be damaging and can result in psychological trauma regardless of whether the victim ever actually meets the stalker.
It has been observed that the fears that result from cyberstalking depend on the individuals affected. However in male victims the most paramount fear is damage to their reputations. Female victims on the other hand are more likely to fear physical harm from cyberstalkers.
Cyberstalking is not addressed as a specific crime in The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act. Legislative change should therefore be initiated that allows police to compel Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement processes that deter harassers. This legislation should also force ISPs to surrender internet logs to authorities.
Apart from legislation we need to appreciate that the police and ISPs are primary centers of responsibility in any cyberstalking crime. Police are supposed to provide an active response to stop the harassment and conduct investigations in case the crime is reported. ISPs are supposed to implement security technologies that prevent such harassment.
Other stakeholders such as the CCK based Kenya Computer Incident Response Team (KE-CIRT) can contribute positively in cyberstalking investigations.
As more and more Kenyans embrace social media and develop online relationships, cyberstalking becomes another online menace we have to contend with.
Cyber stalking victims in Kenya should not be allowed to suffer in silence. By putting in place effective response and investigative structures, we can safeguard the online experience of many Kenyans.