Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom will become the first operator in the country to censor SMSs that contain political messages, as the nation inches closer to national elections. The new guidelines are aimed at sifting out negative political messages, and according to Safaricom Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita, they will apply to all licensed content service providers seeking to communicate political messages to the electorate.
“These guidelines apply only to bulk SMSs which are sent by premium rate service providers. It applies to messages that you would receive from short codes or to those you would receive from subscription services. It does not refer to SMSs sent between individuals, nor does it refer to messaging on social media networks because those are not within our sphere of control,” he added.
Safaricom issued a warning to companies who might try to circumvent the new measures. “Anybody who has a contract with Safaricom to provide premium rate services to the public will have to follow these contractual guidelines and we will not hesitate to terminate those contracts if these guidelines are not followed strictly or if anybody is found by any lawful agency to be involved in incitement or in spreading hate messaging that is likely to cause the sort of chaos that we’ve seen here in the past,” Waita explained.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore added that it is being done to prevent violence within the already-violent nation. “We must confront the issue of mobile based political advertising as stakeholders before it is too late and certainly before it is used to cause chaos in Kenya.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer tech editor