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Facebook Group Shames Deadbeat Kenyan Parents

Kenya Dig It?

Parents’ behaviour on social media can often be reprehensible: setting up Facebook pages for their unborn children, commenting on ill-advised photos from that trip to Magaluf, tagging you in unnecessarily personal posts. But now, at long last, the tables have turned – social media has become a force for good in the world of parenting.

A Facebook group has been set up in Kenya dedicated to naming and shaming deadbeat parents (90% of whom are absent fathers). The group, called Dead Beat Kenya, has exploded in recent weeks with over 170,000 members and thousands of submitted posts. The group is closed, meaning that users need to be apply and be approved to become members, and posts must likewise be approved before being published; sensible considering the scope for abuse, but the groups administrators say that they are snowed under with over 2000 backlogged posts.

The process for approving a post is encouragingly thorough, and pleasingly simple: the group’s moderators phone the accuser for a more complete version of the story, and then call the accused to get their side. If it seems legit, and the alleged deadbeat isn’t willing to step up their responsibilities, then the post is approved and they are named and shamed.

In a happy surprise for a country which has struggled with corruption and evasion of responsibility among its upper classes, those who the group names include journalists, businessmen, and officials. Nonetheless, the group is expecting to have to face some consequences soon. Jackson Njeru, the group’s founder, has said that ‘I haven’t had any court summons, but the group is still young.’ There is a certain irony in this, considering that the group was set up for those who couldn’t appeal through traditional legal channels due to corruption or cost

There has, naturally, been something of a backlash from those who feel that they are being unfairly persecuted through the group. Many are denying their parentage of the children in question, and some are even resorting to posting screenshots of bank transfers and receipts from school fees to prove that they are in fact supporting their children. Some lawyers have approached the group to work on a pro-bono basis, and six disputes have been settled in this way.

Quite apart from the ire of laissez-faire parents being brought to account, the group may be violating Facebook’s own terms of service. The social network prohibits the posting of others’ personal details, and many members of the group are exposing individuals’ names, phone numbers, and addresses.

The issue feeds into a larger narrative about the role social media has to play in modern society, and disputes over its role as either a simple platform or as an active tool for change. In Africa particularly social media engagement is growing at a break-neck pace, and how citizens of the continent operate in the online environment will heavily shape its use and development for the foreseeable future.

Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Facebook Group Shames Deadbeat Kenyan Parents Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, September 19, 2014 Rating: 5
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