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Fake news threatens Kenya polls outcome


9 of 10 Kenyans have seen fake news about the 2017 general election – Survey

By Anthony Opara


Ahead of next month’s General Elections in Kenya, concern is mounting over the potential impact of fake news on the overall process, The Difference has learnt.


This is coming on the heels of the first-ever study on fake news in Kenya which has revealed not only the scale of the issue but also its debilitating impact on trust in media


According to the findings of the study, a massive 90% of Kenyans disclosed that they have seen or heard false news about the 2017 general election, with 87% reporting instances of deliberately false – or fake – news.


The report titled, ‘The Reality of Fake News in Kenya,’ which has been presented in Nairobi, is the first-ever study aimed at quantifying the prevalence and impact of false information during an election campaign in Africa.


The nationwide survey was led by the strategic communications consultancy, Portland in collaboration with GeoPoll, a mobile surveying platform.


Conducted via SMS, the survey asked a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Kenyans a series of questions about their consumption of news during May 2017 in relation to the forthcoming general election.


Among others, the survey found out that 90% of respondents reported having seen false or inaccurate news in relation to the general election. 87% of respondents regarded this news as being deliberately misleading – or fake news even as traditional media remain the most trusted news sources, with television ranking highest, followed by radio and newspapers.


It also revealed that radio is the most consistently accessed source of news in Kenya, with the smallest variation between different provinces across the country, social media is widely used by Kenyans of all ages to access and share news, with 49% of Kenyans using social platforms to secure general election news. However, social media consistently ranks lower than traditional media on trust, and Facebook and WhatsApp are the most popular social media platforms for news, preferred overall by 46% and 25% respectively.


Some other findings are that friends and family, and community leaders, are the least trusted sources of news overall, ranked as the least likely to provide accurate information about the general election, 57% Kenyans feel able to access all the information about the general election that they need, a vast majority of Kenyans (78%) woulde more factual and accurate information about the general election instead of opinion and commentary and as much as 67% of Kenyans prefer comprehensive and detailed information about politics. 33% prefer summarised and concise information.


Allan Kamau, Head of Portland Nairobi, said of the project: “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. Respondents cited conflicting data, controversial messages and biased reporting as the top factors that lead them to suspect something is false. Getting even more sophisticated about spotting and tackling fake news will be vital in ensuring that credible news sources can maintain levels of trust.”


Robert Watkinson, Partner at Portland, said: “With 4 in 10 Kenyans unable to access accurate information about the general election, fake news is clearly a limiting factor on the electorate’s ability to make informed decisions. By revealing the scale and impact of fake news, we hope this study provides a new point of reference, not just for political campaigning in Kenya but also for all communicators seeking to engage Kenyans in the digital age.”


Steve Gutterman, CEO of GeoPoll, said: “Growing mobile connectivity and usage in Kenya means that phones are increasingly being used to consume news and information. With mobile surveying, we are able to collect deep insights from samples right across Kenya. Using the GeoPoll platform, this survey has provided us with rich data on how much of an issue fake news is in Kenya and the impact it is having on how people access reliable information.”


GeoPoll is the world’s largest real-time mobile survey platform, reaching a growing network of more than 320 million users in 30 countries worldwide on a deeply granular level and at unprecedented scale.


Through a multimodal platform powered by text, voice and web-based communications, GeoPoll enables organizations to gather quick, accurate and in-depth insights on anything from consumer preferences to social and development concerns.


On its part, Portland is an international communications consultancy trusted by some of the highest profile organisations, governments and individuals in the world.


It is a pioneer in integrated communications campaigns engaging politicians, global opinion leaders, decision-makers, key stakeholders, consumers and media, and working through offices in London, Doha, Nairobi, New York, Washington DC and Singapore, Portland has supported clients in more than 85 countries.


 William Ruto, Kenya’s Vice President

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