Scholars from across Africa will converge at Mount Kenya University in September to discuss the dangers of fake news, cyber bullying and mitigating measures.
The talks are part of discussions lined up for the International and Interdisciplinary Research Conference as countries across the region seek ways to minimise risks posed by digital media.
It will bring together scholars from the University of Eldoret, Kyambogo University (Uganda) and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University of Nigeria.
“Our institutions risk falling prey to clandestine operatives, some out to extort. We have heard of the extent people who spread fake news are willing to go to. There are those who have been blackmailed in the course of this,” MKU Vice-Chancellor Stanley Waudo said.
Prof Waudo said it is as a result of the trend, which is on the rise, that they saw the pressing need to provide a platform for scholars to brainstorm on how to curb the spread of fake news in the digital age.
“We have heavily invested in building brands from scratch and from my interaction with my contemporaries, that is the story for most of our private institutions of higher learning and we cannot risk such to outbreak of fake news,” he said.
He asked stakeholders to endeavour to confirm with official channels whenever they come across suspect information doing rounds mostly in blogs.
The phenomenon has seen companies invest more in corporate communication to contain fake news.
Already, Parliament has proposed a law calling for hefty penalties on those found culpable of sharing fake news or pornography.
The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill says that publication of false, misleading or fictitious information will attract a maximum fine of Sh5 million or imprisonment for a maximum of two years or both, upon conviction.
Some of the offences have also been expanded to include publication of fictitious information that is likely to propagate war, incite people to violence, constitute hate speech, advocate ethnic hatred or negatively affects the rights or reputations of others.
The bill is set to be presented to the President for assent. Prof Waudo called for the speedy implementation of the bill once President Uhuru Kenyatta appends his signature to it.
The US embassy in Nairobi has also launched what it termed a multi-pronged campaign to counter the spread of false news — first in Kenya and soon in all of Africa.
This, it said during the March launch, will help deal with the rise in concocted news stories and other unethical tactics employed by consulting firms to sway election outcomes in Kenya and other countries.
Besides the fight against fake news, other sub-themes for discussion at the conference are climate change, energy and environmental sustainability, globalisation, community policing for sustainable development, role of financial literacy and innovations in digital health care and community health.
Others are the role of digital technology in disease control, integration of ICT in education, role of artificial intelligence in the 21st Century, knowledge economy and entrepreneurial innovation, public-private partnerships and innovations in destination marketing and management.
The deadline for submission of abstracts is May 31 with the registration deadline set for September 30.
“Deadline for submission of full papers will be on September 30. The conference venue will be Mount Kenya University main campus, Thika,” said an announcement.