WhatsApp, Facebook linked to fake news on Kenya polls

Fake news about the August 8 General Election is widespread and mostly spread using WhatsApp and Facebook, the latest study by Portland and GeoPoll reveals.

Ninety per cent of the people interviewed for the study reported having seen false or inaccurate news on the polls.

2,000

The study was conducted via SMS and a national sample of 2,000 Kenyans were asked a series of questions about their consumption of news during the month of May.

Some 87 per cent of the interviewees said they saw fake news as deliberately misleading.

The good news for traditional media is that it is still the most trusted source of news, with TV ranked highest followed by radio and newspapers.

Social media platforms, however, are widely used by Kenyans of all ages to get news on the forthcoming elections, though they are still less trusted than traditional media for news.

Friends, family and community leaders are the least trusted sources of news, according to the study.

FAKE

Allan Kamau, the head of Portland, a communications consultancy firm in Kenya, said: “While fake news is evidently now a core part of the news mix in Kenya, reassuringly, our study found that Kenyans are already well attuned to spotting false information.”

Dorothy Ooko, communications and public affairs manager for East and Francophone Africa at Google, said the company is working to help people find accurate information.

She said Google had reviewed its policies with the goal of blocking websites that intentionally publish fake news from getting advertisements.

Merriam-webster.com defines fake news as a phrase “frequently used to describe a political story which is seen as damaging to an agency, entity, or person”.

The dictionary says the term “is by no means restricted to politics, and seems to have currency in terms of general news”.

Fake news shot to global infamy during the 2016 US elections and President Donald Trump has since employed the term in his incessant attacks on mainstream media in America.

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