There are selfish, negligent parents all over the world. In Kenya, however, a new Facebook group has now taken private parental disputes public. “Dead Beat Kenya” – which was founded Sept. 6 and already has 170,000 members – aims at exposing those who have refused to care for their children.
Jackson Nieru, one of the group’s administrators and founders, explains that “Dead Beat Kenya” targets both fathers and mothers and is supposed to help those who could not afford to go through a costly judicial process to make their claims.
Users can post photos, phone numbers and names as well as short descriptions of the alleged offenders. The posts are not immediately published, but need to be approved by one of the group’s administrators. Nieru claims that the information is checked and both sides contacted before the posts become visible in the group. Speaking to the BBC, he said that he had already been contacted by lawyers willing to work with mothers and fathers to reach settlements.
Lots of the group’s commenters seemed to support the idea. “This is the best thing ever for single mums,” a woman wrote. The question whether such public shaming will change things for the better is now being debated nationally in Kenyan newspapers and on television.
Due to the time and resource constraints in verifying the claims, the Facebook group has also drawn criticism. One man — who was shamed by a mother — said the accusations publicly made against him were wrong. “What she is saying is not true, and she is damaging my reputation… It is just a forum that is made to destroy relationships and put people on the line,” he told the BBC.
Journalists, businessmen and officers appear to be among the men and women publicly shamed in the group — men making up the vast majority of those accused. The group’s founders themselves seem to expect to face legal action. On Wednesday, Nieru posted a statement saying there was a possibility that lawyers were preparing suits against the administrators as well as Facebook commenters. “The people who send the information to us take full responsibility for it,” Nieru wrote.
Nevertheless, the administrators might violate Facebook’s guidelines, which broadly state that users should not “post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights.” Facebook also prohibits the upload of identification documents or sensitive financial information, but some of the documents that had been posted by Wednesday appeared to show copies of hospital or school bills.
* Originally published on Washingtonpost on Sept. 17, 2014