Social media platforms emerged as fertile grounds to amplify politically instigated hate speech, disinformation, misinformation and manipulation around the August 2022 elections in Kenya. In this context, Search for Common Ground (Search) in collaboration with the Human Rights Agenda (HURIA), Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), Kiunga Youth Bunge Initiative (KYBI), Tana River Peace, Reconciliation and Development (TRPRD) and Ijara Women for Peace established an Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) system through embedded community observation and social media listening, with the aim to harness the shared information between communities, civil society organizations, and government authorities to identify and address imminent threats to peaceful elections, particularly looking at conflict trends, drivers and locations that could potentially trigger or experience violence. In partnership with Build Up, social media listening monitored online conversations, with a focus on Facebook and TikTok, to track hate speech, disinformation and misinformation trends and how these could potentially affect conflicts offline.
The objective of the social media listening analysis focusing on election related hate speech in Kenya was to:
- Map out main actor, actor networks, trending keywords, and main topics of discussion related ethnic, political, and gender-based harmful narratives surrounding the August 9th general election
- Analyze the link between online and offline conflict dynamics
- Provide recommendations for programming
The social media monitoring on Facebook and TikTok revealed multiple harmful online narratives. These narratives mainly focused on collective polarization, manifesting as electoral divisions along ethnic and racial lines, targeting political competitors with inflammatory content, and attacks on institutional legitimacy portrayed as electoral misconduct. Women candidates particularly were disproportionately targeted with hate online that would sexualize them and attack their families and social status. After election day, the online information monitored in our process shifted from previous insults to disinformation about the counting and tallying activities and the results that were coming in on mainstream media.
The report concludes with a number of recommendations for different target audiences such as civil society and tech companies.