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Kenya steps up online control

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Browsing anonymously will soon be a thing of the past in Kenya following new rules directed at internet service providers (ISPs).

The new laws are particularly targeting social media users and aims to clamp down on hate speech as the country heads to a general election.

The government has given ISPs, including mobile telephone service providers, three months to comply with the new internet spying standards. They will be required to install internet monitoring gadgets that eliminate anonymity of e-mail senders and other web users by December.

Each ISP will be required to install a system that assigns Internet Protocol (commonly called IP) identity to each gadget making any communication originating from such gadgets traceable. Currently, each network has a single IP meaning messages can be easily traced to a network but not the originating equipment.

When implemented, it means Kenya’s 6.4 million internet users will no longer be able to enjoy anonymity on the internet. According to the Communication Commission of Kenya, 95% of Kenya’s internet users access the web through mobile networks, making them handy tools for purveyors of unlawful or unethical messages.

In 2007/2008, Kenya was engulfed in a terrible post-election violence, with hate messages on the internet partly to blame.

The measures come as the September 30 deadline looms for the switching off of counterfeit phones in Kenya. The fake phones have no IME identification, making them hard to track and turning them into an equipment of choice for law breakers.

It is estimated that three million out of the 20 million phones in Kenya are counterfeited.

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