Social media and private messaging applications have been flagged as the biggest sources of fake news ahead of the General Election.
A study released on Wednesday by two companies says 90 per cent of the 2,000 people interviewed reported having seen fake news in May, when the study was conducted.
“We found that social media was being referenced relatively regularly with a total of 49 per cent receiving news about the General Election through this medium,” the researchers said in the study.
“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,” the study, carried out by Portland, a communications consultancy firm, and GeoPoll, a research firm, says.
The researchers said that fake news, deliberately spread false information, “is an issue of fundamental importance to democracy, because it can skew and influence election results.”
“As such, fake news is a bigger problem than previously thought, with potentially far-reaching consequences,” they said.
However, traditional media such as TV, radio and newspapers remain the most trusted sources of information.
“These channels are not only commonly referenced sources of election news but they are the most commonly trusted sources.
“However, they are not always the most readily available sources of news with distribution being varied across the country,” the researchers said.
Client Services Manager at GeoPoll John Murunga said the study showed that Kenyans are alive to fake news and they can tell when the information is false.
“It calls for responsibility across the board. Be careful what you spread,” he said.
In Kenya, fake news has gained notoriety in the run-up to the elections, with propaganda being spread for political purposes and some website owners using it to attract readers to their websites.
Ms Dorothy Ooko, the Communications and Public Affairs Manager for East Africa and Francophone Africa at Google, said the company will stop websites which publish fake news from getting advertisements as part of its worldwide efforts to stop the spread of false information.
Inside Kenya’s social media election: Propaganda and data mining.