The final stretch of the campaigns has witnessed outright propaganda and manipulated videos and audios online spaces, signalling a rebound of fake news.
From fabricated videos made to misrepresent a candidate’s opinion to invented phone calls alleging plans to rig elections and fake statements claiming foreign support for a specific candidate, the ‘deep fakes’ have increased these final two weeks as they seemingly target the less informed.
Their propagation by influential political figures, including serving governors and members of parliament with verified accounts on Twitter, has raised eyebrows, with some calling for their investigation by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).
Influential leaders from both sides of the frontrunner coalitions have in the past two weeks propagated fake material that is either critically injurious to the reputation of their opponents or carefully crafted to boost their own side’s popularity.
In one such videos shared by leaders in Raila Odinga’s camp, subtitles are manipulated to depict Deputy President William Ruto as hurling threats in his local dialect to non-members of the Kalenjin tribes who reside in the North Rift region.
Dr Ruto was, however saying the exact opposite in the original video. He was reassuring the other communities that they are safe living in the region and should go about their business.
Another was fake audio shared by an MP in Dr Ruto’s camp, claimed to be a leaked phone call between Junet Mohamed, the secretary-general of Odinga’s coalition party, and an official of the electoral body attempting to rig the elections.
Twitter has since flagged and removed some of the fake materials shared by both sides, but not before they garnered dozens of views and attracted outrage from users.
Some of the accounts that propagated manipulated materials have been suspended.
A number of the materials have also been picked up by small-time political influencers and have found their way into other social platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook, sparking fear and anger as the election nears.
“We have seen a spike in false information around key election events. We saw it during primaries, the debates, and as we get to the final days before elections, this is likely to get worse,” said Alphonce Shiundu, Kenya Editor at Africa Check.
“With more people getting to social media, the peddlers of doctored videos are stepping up their pursuit for hearts, minds, and votes, by all means necessary including creating videos to spread incendiary propaganda and fear.”
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission had warned that the propagation of hate speech and disinformation on social media platforms, especially at this time, could spark electoral violence, urging the outfits to double down on their efforts to bring down or deny the senders a platform to spread such material.