Election Period Social Media Use: How To Stay Secure


On 13th May 2017, the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) hosted a digital security and Internet freedoms workshop at Nailab. The workshop was aimed at bloggers and social media users.

The lively first session was led by Mr. Mugambi Laibuta, an Advocate of the High Court and a blogger. He took the participants through some of the offences published in the Electoral Offences Act, 2016. Some of the offences include selling or offering for sale any ballot paper, interfering with a voter in the casting of his/her vote in secret and pretending to be visually impaired, disabled or illiterate in order to be assisted in voting.

Offenses on the part of electoral commission officials include willfully preventing any person from voting, purporting to make a formal announcement of election results without authority, colluding with a political party or candidate to give undue advantage and communicating someone’s vote to any person.

Other offences mentioned include taking a photo of a marked ballot paper, bribery, and exerting undue influence through violence, threats or inducements.

There was some debate among the workshop participants when section 14 of the act was mentioned. The section deals with use of public resources and mentions that no government shall publish any advertisement of achievements of the respective government during the election period. Additionally, section 15 looks at participation in elections by public offers. This led participants to argue that perhaps, public officials in office through political appointment should be allowed to campaign for the candidate of their choice as their position depends on them.

The aim of going through the offenses was to educate participants about them so they could avoid committing them as well as caution others from committing them. It is also expected that social media users will be keen to observe the elections and campaigns and therefore they need to be aware of the electoral offenses so that they can recognize when they are being committed and go ahead to collect evidence against the offender.

Some members from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution were also in attendance and they answered questions about the law in regards to social media users especially during this election period. They also provided insightful points in matters of digital evidence gathering. For such evidence to be accepted in court, there seems to be an intricate set of steps that needs to be followed including having an expert in the field extract the evidence and also having a clear and secure chain of custody of the evidence. If all the steps are not followed then it will be easy to have the evidence thrown out. It was recommended that anyone with such kind of evidence could take it to the ODPP offices, Internal Affairs Office of the Police Service or the Ombudsman.

Mr. Ephraim Muchemi of the International Record and Exchanges Board (IREX) led the second session of the workshop on digital security. He led participants through some steps one can take to remain safe in the digital sphere. They included something as simple as installing an anti virus software on your devices as well as a firewall. Additionally, one should avoid visiting unsafe websites or clicking on suspicious links as they may contain malicious software. Muchemi took participants through a simple exercise showing them how to create a strong password. It included choosing a simple statement: I Love CrossOver Kenya and bookending it with symbols such as () # so that the final result looked like: (ILoveCrossOverKenya#) which is a simple but strong password.

The second session was very instructive as well as paranoia inducing as participants got to learn how easy it can be for hackers to infiltrate and take over ones devices. However, Muchemi assured everyone that hacking is a long process that takes a lot of time, money and energy and if one takes simple precautions such as not leaving their devices unattended and not using the same PIN and password for everything then, they should remain secure.

The workshop was made possible by the support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) who promotes effective and inclusive ICT policy in Africa and advocate for internet freedom in Africa.