General elections in Kenya are now just a stone’s throw away, and the campaigns are entering the homestretch. Actors in the political space are doing all they can to attract voters to their side.
There is no denying that digital platforms are now awash with fake news and misinformation, nearing the crescendo as the 9th of August D-day beckons.
During a heated political season in Kenya such as this one, the Internet, especially social media tools play a major role, with the political landscape changing rapidly in terms of strategies to woo supporters.
In Kenya, the most common social media platforms being used at the moment are Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and WhatsApp. Few are using LinkedIn and many others are using bloggers to craft content that either elevate them or taints their opponents.
Every politician in Kenya, from a Member of County Assembly (MCA) to a Member of Parliament, to a Woman Representative, to a Senator, to a Governor, to a Presidential candidate, has an army of the so-called “keyboard warriors” or some call themselves the “KOT Battalion.”
Keyboard warriors affiliated with politicians are a group of individuals whose business is to spew hate on their perceived candidate’s opponent than show love for their candidate! They are armed with the most potent smear campaign arsenal in the world, the juiciest propaganda around, and fake news about opponents!
A day does not pass without falsified information flying across online platforms in Kenya about a politician, their families, or a certain community. The majority of these keyboard warriors have perfected the use of hashtags or keywords. This is a term that so many people push online at once so that it goes viral or trends for millions to see. It happens on both Facebook and Twitter.
Every politician or their supporters have or are engaged in different WhatsApp groups, which are now considered the most versatile in spreading information to targeted groups, including dangerous and malicious information compared to either Facebook or Twitter.
One of the most used forms of fake and malicious information online is the manipulation of images. It is becoming increasingly difficult for one to tell a photoshopped image from the real one. Given that these elections are “high-stake”, the spread of fabricated images is only set to be more intense with the likelihood of causing tension across the country.
Politicians or their agents have also taken advantage of the vulnerability of Kenyans to spread false information online to issue inflammatory statements, that are then picked and amplified across social media. This has to stop if we really love this country. Inflammatory statements are about to take this country back.
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), the regulatory agency for the ICT industry in Kenya has been calling on Kenyans to be vigilant and restrain from abusing online platforms.
The Authority says that there is a need for Kenyans to verify every piece of information before passing it to the next person, be it online or offline. According to the Authority, despite the fact that the Constitution gives one the freedom of expression, it has to be done in such a manner that it does not harm other people.
It is the cardinal rule that your liberty ends where the other’s liberty starts!
There are five ways to remain safe online during this election period that everyone should know:
- Verify every piece of information. Do not take everything you see on social media as the gospel truth. Be your own gatekeeper.
- Do not spread false information. Do not accept being used as an avenue to spread falsehoods.
- Do not share your passwords. Sharing your passwords means anyone might access your social media accounts and use them to spread false information.
- Do not share more than enough. The online space is a free and lethal world, and nobody cares what you share. Share only what you want people to know.
- Think about yourself. If you care about yourself, you will not put yourself on the line for people who only care about their personal desires.
Do not let the anonymity of online platforms make you feel immune. Be responsible!