There was an uproar occurred on social media when the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) chairman, Francis Ole Kaparo asserted that they will prosecute WhatsApp group administrators who do not moderate hate speech. Hon. Kaparo was speaking in a press conference jointly held with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government and the Judiciary explaining the country’s preparedness towards the general elections declared that 21 WhatsApp group adminstrators would be prosecuted if they don’t stop hate speech that is happening on the platform.
Francis Ole Kaparo during the press conference said, “We have identified, for example, 21 county platforms that have been encouraging incitement and hate speech across the country.”
WhatsApp has a privacy and security system known as End-to-End Encryption. According to the WhatsApp support team, end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you are communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp itself.
However, in the case of an emergency requests from law enforcements, WhatsApp can review, validate, and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and policy. They can prioritize whether they can disclose information to the said concerned parties.
This being an election year, prying on WhatsApp conversations by the government could be considered an emergency. However even in this case, they cannot access the details of the content in the groups. The only way to do it is to plant spies in the group which could also be an invasion of privacy.
Under the hashtag #WhatsAppAdmins on Twitter, a few individuals complained against this move. Many people are not moved by this since the main perpetrators of hate speech are the politicians themselves. They claim that the threat is biased since the commission has failed to prosecute politicians who have been accused of making provocative remarks.
While the government is concerned and rightly so about taming hate speech both online and offline, it needs to be practical in measure it can do and what it cannot. For instance, what if a group has everyone as an administrator!