Online disinformation grows in Kenya as elections near

Online disinformation in Kenya is escalating as elections approach, with social media users encountering political falsehoods, hate speech, and incitement against various ethnic groups. Reports indicate harmful content on platforms like TikTok. Concerns are raised by digital rights groups as tensions rise, fearing a repeat of past violent election aftermaths. Despite big tech companies claiming increased efforts to combat misinformation, critics argue that these actions often fall short, especially in regions like Kenya where moderators lack local language knowledge. This situation highlights the urgent need for more effective measures to address the spread of harmful online content ahead of the elections.

As elections in Kenya near, social media users are being exposed to online political disinformation, hate speech and incitement against ethnic communities. A recent report by Mozilla Foundation highlighted harmful content on TikTok, where false claims about candidates included threats to attack other ethnic groups once in power. Digital rights groups are expressing concern about the increasing tension that these kinds of posts trigger around the election. This scenario is particularly worrying because Kenya has a highly volatile political landscape that has previously experienced deadly post-election clashes. Big tech companies claim that they are increasing efforts to combat online disinformation and hate speech. However, digital rights groups said that the efforts are often inadequate, especially in developing countries. They expressed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation that “moderators lack knowledge of local languages and dialects while rules do not account for specific cultural and societal contexts, allowing problematic content to spread quickly with potentially serious consequences.”