Social media in Kenya is fundamentally shaping how people communicate with each other and how brands and businesses get messages about their products and services to their intended audience.
A report released by both GeoPoll and Portland Africa two months ago revealed that 49 percent of Kenyans use social media as the sole channel to access news about politics, products, and services. The report indicated that more than 40 percent of Kenyans use the mainstream media to confirm the credibility of whatever they read and see in social media platforms.
According to Geopoll and Portland Africa, Kenya has about 10 million WhatsApp users, 3 million Instagram users, 1.5 million LinkedIn users and 6 million Facebook users as the mobile penetration the country clocks 90 percent according to the data released by the Communication Authority of Kenya.
In the wake of increasing political temperatures in the country, aided by the nullification of the presidential results by the Supreme Court of Kenya, the amount of fake news being disseminated both across the mainstream and social media is worrying. Politicians and their followers are trying as much as possible to channel out any false information about their competitors with the hope of convincing and confusing Kenyans.
Prior to the August 8 polls, 90 percent of Kenyans reported having come across a fake news item with 87 percent reporting having come across deliberate fake news pieces. Noah Miller is the Managing Director at Sochin Limited. According to him, “Kenyans are talking hotly on social media. What they are forgetting is that you cannot just talk without taking responsibility. There are limitations.”
Unfortunately, fake news is not only affecting the political class alone. The vice has found its way in the business world and businesses are suffering. It was with this in mind that the mobile telecommunication service provider, Safaricom, in conjunction with Social Media Kenya organized a forum on the fake news at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).
Among those who spoke at the event include Dr. Joseph Nasong’o of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), Steve Chege, the Director, Corporate Affairs at Safaricom, Grace Chege, the Co-convener, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET) and Mark Kaigwa, the Founder of Neondo.
It has now emerged that fake news is not only hurting the targeted individuals but the economy in general. According to Steve Chege, the Director, Corporate Affairs at Safaricom, reputable corporates have often become victims of fake news ‘mainly for traffic generation’ for blogs.
“Safaricom generates a lot of news given the nature of its business; some information is true and most of it is fake news. I think corporates and businesses should devise ways of dealing with the fake news. One of the major ways to neutralize fake news is through channeling out truths and facts,” said Steve Chege.
Fake news in Kenya is used as a propaganda tool aimed at tarnishing one’s reputation or influencing a decision. “One of the dangers of fake news is that it is shared widely and made to look factual. It has become a very popular propaganda tool. Every news item needs to be verified. In most cases, people do not bother to verify the information they get on social media before hitting the share button. The internet has facilitated the dissemination of fake news because it is cheaper and faster,” said Grace Chege, Co-convener, and Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET).