In Kenya, Influencers are provided to spread disinformation
On May 18 this year, the subtle hashtag #AnarchistJudges appeared on Kenyan Twitter timelines. Apparently prompted by many faceless voters, and also retweeted by a series of sock puppet accounts, the flood of tweets questioning both the competence and integrity of Kenya’s elderly High Court judges who just shot the Constitutional Amendment Act of 2021. Many falsely claim that judges are involved in narcotics dealings, bribery, and political partisanship. It quickly became one of the top topics of interest in the country.
Such destructive, simultaneous attacks of disinformation are rapidly growing in Kenya, my Mozilla Foundation colleague Brian Obilo and I found in a new investigation. Through a series of interviews with the influences involved in these campaigns, we examined the evidence of a strong, shadowy industry of social media influences for wage politics in Kenya. Civil society members and journalists are even more vulnerable to disinformation attacks that seek to silence them, tarnish their reputation, and prevent their reach.
Twitter, which has strongly influenced the news cycle in the country and has exploitative features such as the trending algorithm, has become central to these operations. Many of the accounts and individuals involved promoted political causes and ideologies without disclosing that they were part of paid campaigns. Even some verified accounts are complete.
With the help of Twint, Sprinklr, and Trendinalia, we released two months of data (May 1 to June 30) on disinformation attacks by mapping and analyzing specific hashtags used by Twitter creators . In particular, we focus on Kenya’s Constitutional Amendment, popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), debates which discuss when. The standards include the mapping of certain accounts posting harmful content targeted by Kenyan activists and judiciary officials. The timestamps in the metadata content of these tweets suggest a strong integration: a sharp burst of activity in a very short period of time.
In total, we flagged 23,606 tweets and retweets posted to 3,742 accounts under 11 hashtags. The campaigns we have gained interest in directly attacking citizens and prominent civil action activists have strongly opposed it. They also seek to undermine civil society organizations and activists by portraying them as villains funded by Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto, who is against the voice.
Well-coordinated attacks are carried out by WhatsApp groups to avoid detection. In the groups the conversations are shared with us, administrators provide instructions on what to post, hashtags to use, what tweets to engage with, who to target, and how to sync the posts so they can be trendy. “The main purpose is to trend on Twitter,” said one influencer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “I’m not sure what our jobs would look like without that target.”
There is money to be made. Our sources said they were paid between $ 10 and $ 15 to participate in three campaigns per day. Some are on a retainer that can go up to $ 250 a month. It’s in a country where many citizens earn $ 1 a day.
The three most always different from the victims of these campaigns, our analysis found, Kenyan journalists, judges, and activists. Many of the attacks against Jerotich Seii, a prominent member of the anti-BBB campaign Linda Katiba, for example, used the likeness of her father, pretending they were them and saying that her effort was funded by William Ruto. He told us that the attacks against him were blasphemous and effective that he would “spend a large chunk of my time defending my position as someone who is truly a patriot who does what they do for the love of their country. ” Some activists resorted to self -censorship.
In response to our investigation, Twitter took down more than 100 Kenyan accounts that violated the platform’s manipulation and spam policies. In an emailed statement, a Twitter spokesperson wrote, “Some accounts are relied upon in false behavior to try to gain followers or retweets (not just on political themes, from what has been observed); many of the tweets associated with the hashtags cited in the report (e.g. #AnarchistJudges) are legitimate. ”