Social media networks like Facebook and WhatsApp are being used to spread fake news stories in Kenya—less than three weeks before the country holds a tightly-contested general election. The prevalence and impact of fake news are also becoming a question of concern for political campaigners, journalists, government officials, and companies like Google.
As the campaigns have gotten underway, there has been an increase in the number of attack ads appearing online, besides the manufacturing of falsehoods disguised as news material. Some users on Kenya’s social media networks have also blamed some of the misinformation on Cambridge Analytica, a company at the center of a growing controversy over the use of data mining and psychological profiling to influence both the Brexit vote in the UK and the Donald Trump election in the US.
“It seems as if there’s a drive, a deliberate effort to create fake stories,” Catherine Gicheru, the Kenya head for the data journalism and civic technology initiative, Code for Africa, said.
Deliberate spreading of false information is now a core part of the news mix in Kenya, according to a study which revealed 90% of Kenyans had heard or seen false stories related to the election, with a cross section of the population including official groups, friends, and families all using social media to spread misinformation. This study was conducted by Portland and GeoPoll.
In Kenya, the problem is elevated by the levels of connectivity among voters. Mobile phone subscriptions stand at 39 million lines among Kenya’s 45 million people. The country also has the 14th fastest mobile internet speed in the world, with as much as 88% of the population accessing the internet through their phones—thanks in large part to cheap data plans. Social media is also big in Kenya and there are over 15,000 registered bloggers in the east African nation.
Full article: qz