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Kinzen's Weekly Wrap - January 28, 2022

In the first few weeks of the year, we’ve been looking ahead to the forthcoming Brazilian, Indian and French elections. As January comes to a close we’ll look at one more: Kenya, where voters go to the polls in August. We asked Ann Ngengere (find her on Twitter, LinkedIn) about what we might expect.

What misinformation trends are you seeing ahead of the Kenyan election?

In 2017, doctored videos of international news agencies reporting false information on Kenyan politics went online. And with a few months until the August 2022 general election, we’re already seeing incidents of hate speech and political propaganda attempting to sway public opinion. Fact-checkers have their work cut out for them if recent events are anything to go by. 

During a parliamentary by-election held in July last year, social media was awash with many misleading photos shared out of context. A popular blogger and a member of parliament made unsubstantiated claims aimed at discrediting their political opponents and the electoral commission. We’ve started to see manipulated newspaper front pages discrediting political opponents circulating on social media in recent years, and this has now moved to Twitter where there's a lot of political smearing and targeted disinformation campaigns.

The political class have for a long time used political parties to divide Kenyans based on their ethnicity. Just two weeks ago at a political rally, a politician made inflammatory remarks with the potential to ignite violence along ethnic lines. We need to be on the lookout for hate speech along ethnic lines, propaganda and targeted disinformation as this is bound to get worse as we get closer to the general election. 


Recommended Articles: From the Kinzen Slack channels this week

Rappler. Groups assemble ‘united front’ vs disinformation ahead of 2022 polls

Yet another big election focus this year is the Philippines. This report outlines the efforts of civic society groups on the ground who are deeply concerned about how information will be used and abused. They are gathering together to provide different perspectives and different ways of resisting disinformation and hate. Their hope is to protect democracy itself.

Global Voices. As Kenyans prepare for a general election, how will officials combat fake news?

For more on the upcoming Kenyan election, this piece provides additional context on the role of social media in the country. It also briefly profiles three fact-checking organisations working to help citizens sift fact from falsehood: Africa Check, Pesa Check and the recently established Piga Firimbi.

USA Today. 'Fringe ideas' are going mainstream in US politics. That's a danger to democracy, extremism experts say.

Yet another insight to the mainstreaming of extremism in the US at local, state and federal levels. 

Tech Policy Press. Four proposals to neutralize social media’s threat to democracies

I’d encourage a full reading for the detail but the four proposals are:

  • Provide monthly user “attention receipts,” paving the way for an attention tax on platforms.
  • Allow everybody, not just VIPs, to verify their online identity.
  • Augment public media with independent third-party fact-checking.
  • Establish open access to live social media data.

New Public. Stopping viral toxicity before it starts

Interesting thoughts here on how machine learning could be used to circuit-break misinformation.

The Washington Post. Conspiracy theorists, banned on major social networks, connect with audiences on newsletters and podcasts

This is a helpful summary of the controversies that have been raging this week around content moderation on Substack and Spotify. Newsletters and podcasts, it is argued, are different to social media platforms like Facebook, where algorithms promote content and can amplify extremism. Instead, people subscribe to newsletters and podcasts, so where is the line of responsibility for content moderation with these different kinds of services? It seems that conversation is one that we’re having in public in real time. 

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