Innocent Souls Being Killed Through Facebook Profiling! How Safe Is Your Loved One?
"I have lost two husbands in one year," a tearful young woman, in Kayole, Nairobi, balancing a toddler on her side, revealed.
Kenya's police force has been on the spot for hoarding a suspected killer squad while using Facebook to target and kill young men, they believe to be gang members. These suspected police officers use anonymous digital personas to spy on their targets.
They profile young men mostly aged between 15-24 years, on Facebook, after one week or a month they shoot them, and put pictures of their dead bodies on Facebook. They then warn that the same fate awaits other criminals, whenever they post such photos, sometimes showing close-up shots of heads split open by bullets, in specific Facebook groups and pages.
According Duncan Omanga, a researcher at Moi University in Kenya, who has been monitoring such Facebook pages for three years, it seemed to be a deliberate strategy to give the impression of "police omnipresence and 'state' surveillance" in these areas of Nairobi.
The police however, disputed the allegations saying that “the person behind the Facebook accounts is not a police officer, but [a civilian] passionate about security matters."
The Kayole residents said there were various Facebook groups, some public and some which were closed, that are updated with gruesome pictures almost every day. They therefore live in uttermost fear every day, not knowing who will be next.
In one month, an average of six suspected gangsters are profiled, details of their alleged crimes and areas of operation, and the kind of arms they are believed to own are published on various Facebook accounts and groups.
On a closed Facebook group called Nairobi Crime Free, the slogan: "Forgiving a terrorist is left to God, but fixing their appointment with God is our responsibility", is clearly visible. The group that hosts more than 300,000 members, publishes between 10 and 12 police killings of suspected gangsters monthly, and members seem to revel in the content.
Some also share their personal experiences as victims of crime and call on the police to eliminate other criminals. But criminals also pay attention to these Facebook pages just in case they are listed for elimination. After being profiled, several young men have gone into hiding or have sought protection from human rights organisations.
However, it is not just criminal gangs who are the targets from these Facebook groups. Human rights activists say they also feel under threat for speaking out about extrajudicial killings. They have also been profiled on these Facebook pages - pictures of their offices posted, and their efforts to report to the police have been futile.
While crime is a big problem in some of the Nairobi residential estates, it is a question of the law being applied equally. The law clearly states that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
If rich people suspected of stealing taxes are being taken to court, then these young men have a right to have a fair hearing.