Phone firms block 300,000 hate texts daily, says Ndemo

Information and Communications PS, Dr Bitange Ndemo. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Service providers use software to detect words deemed dangerous and filters them for scrutiny before they are blocked
  • Government moves to curb inflammatory remarks that could trigger unrest

Mobile telephone service providers block more than 300,000 text messages deemed to spread hatred daily, Information PS Bitange Ndemo said on Wednesday.

This is part of government efforts to curb spread of information that could cause violence following the March 4 elections.

“Most of mobile phone providers block 300,000 hate short message texts (SMSs) per day to prevent events similar to what happened in 2007,” the PS said.

Director of Public Communications Mary Ombara explained that the service providers had installed software that detects messages containing particular words and automatically flags them off for further scrutiny.

“If an SMS contains a word like ‘kill’, it would be detected. The context would then be scrutinised and if found to be offensive, the SMS would be blocked,” she said.

However, Mr Ndemo admitted that the government found it difficult to control spread of offensive messages on social media sites, Facebook and Twitter.

The management of the two social networks have agreed to meet government officials in regard to the matter.

“Our effort is to remove elements that contravene constitutional provisions. Our intention has never been to remove the blogs,” Ms Ombara said.

The two were speaking in Nairobi yesterday during the weekly briefing of National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring. The committee accused an unnamed FM station of broadcasting inciting statements at the weekend.

“A wide reach vernacular FM station blatantly violated a memorandum of understanding signed by all radio stations. The station proceeded to issue statements intended to incite particular communities in the context of grave national issues at hand,” Ms Ombara said.

The committee wants the Communications Commission of Kenya to take action against the FM station.

But Dr Ndemo said the government faced problems in translating such statements. Police spokesman Charles Owino said 100 election-related offences had been presented to the courts.

“There are people serving jail terms for contravening the law. As we ensure people enjoy freedom, we shall make sure nobody violates the rights of others,” he said.

The committee also appealed to all Kenyans to use social media to press for their Constitutional rights and to champion good governance.

“As a government, we are keen to fully join the cyber space to engage and communicate with Kenyans,” said the committee in a statement on Wednesday.