Fake news influenced 2017 polls, says group

Elog report shows bloggers churned out stories that reshaped Kenyans' thinking

The spread of fake news was a major concern and shaped the way some Kenyans voted in last year’s General Election, an election observer group has revealed.

In a report dubbed; One Country, Two Elections, Many Voices, launched yesterday by Elections Observation Group (Elog) said  both National Super Alliance (Nasa) and Jubilee had “attack bloggers” who were churning out stories that reshaped voters’ thinking.

“Most Kenyans trust social media as a source of news on any topic. They are, therefore, more likely to fall prey to anything on social media platforms,” said Elog’s chairperson Regina Opondo.

“We were able to quickly verify and fact-check scores of incidents and claims received ranging from images of children allegedly voting to reports of violence and voter interference. The team (Elog) has checked and debunked more than 80 election-related claims drawn from mainly social media and mainstream media sources.” said the report.

It also noted that a high number of well-produced false news items distributed on social media, reportedly in part by political camps, attempted to delegitimise genuine stories about political rivals.

The report comes in the wake of yet another ‘exposé by a British election consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA) Kenyans’ indicating that it preyed on fear of ethnic violence and joblessness to help President Uhuru Kenyatta win the August 2017 poll.

 According to a video secretly recorded and broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 News last week, CA, a data analytics firm, deployed psychological manipulation to influence voters in both the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

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