Dead Beat Kenya is a a new Facebook group for naming and shaming absentee fathers.
The group and its affiliate Dead Beat Kenya Updates was started by a man, Jackson Njeru, and aims to expose the shenanigans of men who have decided to be fathers without being dads.
Though it predominantly focuses on men, some women appear too. Members can post names and photos of significant others who they say have skipped out on their parental responsibilities.
Administrators can barely keep up with the flood of posts; it apparently has about 2,000 pending. The groups also have over 125,000 likes, and they’re barely two weeks old. The founder has already been interviewed on NTV trend, Citizen TV News and a few other media outlets.
Those outing their former partners via the group say they resorted to doing so after trying dialogue and the courts to no avail. When Capital FM canvassed for reactions from people on the streets, one male respondent said: “I only support those children under my roof,” while admitting to having a child out of wedlock. Another, a cab driver, said he would never support a child who resulted from an affair as could never be sure the child was his. The frustration of the group members is understandable.
Members are writing posts about how financially able men left them when they were so many months pregnant, and how some have been “missing” for years. Some have even posted the results of DNA tests. There are posts outlining warrants for arrest, and even one about “looking for a witch doctor to bewitch his balls”. With some posts attracting as many as 1,000 comments, the founder has clearly struck a chord.
Some of the women in the group have also been subject to claims that they lied about not receiving child support payments or even for being the ones who have skipped out on the child. Some men have hit back posting Mpesa and school receipts to show that they have in fact been paying child support and school fees.
The group features claims against lawyers, a TV personality, police constables, managers, officials, DJs and more – demonstrating that some offenders can afford to pay child support. But while this exposure has reached far and wide within the Kenyan community and may be fun for observers, it also holds the potential for trouble.
No burden of proof
Exposing absentee fathers in this manner may be a necessary evil for some, and it’s probably safe to assume most posts of this nature are true, but it is not beyond reason to equally assume that the odd post could be malicious and posted out of spite rather than as a means of exposing the truth. A photo and a line of text is all it would take for a scorned ex to make life very difficult for a man or woman who does not deserve it. The potential for abusing this platform is almost infinite as there is no burden of proof.
Once your personal business is splashed over social media, with or without your consent, your life becomes open season, and any genius with two thumbs, a smart phone and a thought in their head can comment on your life and morals in any way they see fit. This isn’t just hypothetical; people have been harassed by strangers.
Facebook is not renowned for encouraging intellectual debates on sensitive issues, so when an accusation attracts 1,000 comments, you can expect that some of those comments will be of the abusive, condemnatory kind, regardless of the lack of proof.
Guilty or not, once you’re exposed, that’s it. With so many contributors, someone is bound to recognise you if your name and picture are posted on the group’s page. If you are a “dead beat” dad then karma is a cruel mistress. However, if you are not, but stand accused anyway, this could colour future relationships, friendships and affect your professional life – imagine your boss finding you on Dead Beat. And, realistically, how many of those falsely accused are going to hire libel lawyers to take their case to court and seek damages for the defamation of their character?
There is also the problem that some people – in the heat of the moment – are providing all the personal details of the object of their vengeance. People have included telephone numbers, addresses, identification numbers, places of work and even names of spouses. There is the potential to do some serious damage to someone’s everyday life here, especially as more and more people decide that this is the platform in which to hash out their grudges. This leaves people vulnerable to the offline attacks of others.
Clearly, this group has the potential to make people conduct themselves in a better manner, but it also has the potential to be very damaging for people who do not deserve it. The internet is like an elephant: it never forgets.
Source: The Guardian