Social media a ‘hotbed’ of fake news on election

Fake news reports, particularly those surrounding the General Election, are likely to increase as social media continues to act as a key source of information with limited checks and balances.
A new study conducted by Portland and Geopoll — a leading mobile surveying platform in Africa — reveals that inaccurate news is so widespread that it limits people’s ability to make informed voting decisions.
The situation is so grim in that more than a third {35 per cent} of people felt they are not fully able to access all the accurate election information they need. The research provides the first ever data on the prevalence and impact of fake news in Kenya. It indicates the speed and pace at which hoaxes, gossip and lies are being spread is an area of growing concern for brands that could see fake news sipping into the business world.
“Social media and mobile phones are disrupting the ways that news and information is generated and shared, and with fake news a core part of the news mix and social media use growing, the phenomena could have an outsized impact with unknown implications,” the report says. The research says fake news is a pervasive problem surrounding the Kenyan election, with 90 per cent having seen false or inaccurate information and 87 per cent viewing the said information as being deliberately false.
But Kenyans, on the other hand, prefer detailed and factual content regarding the election, with source of information coming from the mainstream media.
It states that two thirds {67 per cent} of Kenyans would rather read comprehensive and detailed information over summarised and concise information, and 78 per cent would prefer factual and accurate information over opinion-based news.
Social media has frequently been accused of being a hotbed of misinformation moreso because it does not have quality controls or checks. But the medium was being referenced relatively regularly with a total of 49 per cent receiving news about the General Election through it.
It also observed that it is not just young people referencing social media but a cross section of the population. Although hard to quantify, private instant messaging apps are increasingly used for sharing and discussing news, with WhatsApp, in particular, proving very popular with Kenyans across all age groups. Despite the relatively high levels of use, the surveyors found that the levels of trust in the accuracy of the information was very low compared to more traditional news sources such as TV, radio and newspapers.

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