Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter fell short of their election integrity promises in Kenya this past August, according to Mozilla Fellow Odanga Madung
Evidence reveals several violations of platforms’ election policies
(NAIROBI, KENYA | NOVEMBER 3, 2022) -- Misinformation spread and amplified by tech platforms deeply exacerbated the post-election uncertainty in Kenya last August, according to new research by Mozilla Fellow Odanga Madung. This misinformation proliferated despite platforms’ explicit promises to curb problematic content months ahead of the election.
Madung’s report is titled “Opaque and Overstretched, Part 2 : How platforms failed to curb misinformation during the Kenyan 2022 election.” It follows an earlier report by Mozilla titled “Opaque and Overstretched” and published in November 2021, which revealed similar failures amid the 2021 German election.
Madung’s report details the online confusion that followed Kenya’s August 9 election. Both candidates Dr. William Ruto and Raila Odinga declared victory, and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (the IEBC) released over 46,000 election result documents, essentially opening up the vote tallying process in a way like never before.
In the report, Madung first lays out Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter’s avowed strategies for curbing misinformation — and then details how these promises went unfulfilled during the heavily contested electoral period.
“The days following Kenya’s federal election were an online dystopia,” Madung says. “More than ever, we needed platforms to fulfill their promises of being trustworthy places for election information. Instead, they were just the opposite: places of conspiracy, rumor, and false claims of victory.”
Madung continues: “This is especially disheartening given platforms’ pledges leading up to the election. In just a matter of hours after the polls closed, it became clear that Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter lack the resources and cultural context to moderate election information in the region.”
More than ever, we needed platforms to fulfill their promises of being trustworthy places for election information. Instead, they were just the opposite: places of conspiracy, rumor, and false claims of victory.
Odanga Madung, Mozilla Fellow
In the report, Madung focuses on two case studies: The failure of platforms to uphold their labeling policies; and the failure of platforms to uphold their political advertising policies.
For example, on Facebook and Twitter, false posts went viral and unlabeled (and remain live today) claiming a member of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance had been arrested and kidnapped by the police.
Another example: During Kenya’s “Election Silence Period,” when candidates are prohibited from campaigning two days before an election, Facebook still allowed politicians to pay for and place political ads.
Madung has authored four previous reports focusing on platforms and elections in Kenya:
- September 2021: Inside the Shadowy World of Disinformation for Hire in Kenya
- November 2021: How to Manipulate Twitter and Influence People: Propaganda and the Pandora Papers in Kenya
- February 2022: Exporting Disinformation: How Foreign Groups Peddle Influence in Kenya Through Twitter
- June 2022: From Dance App to Political Mercenary: How disinformation on TikTok gaslights political tensions in Kenya
His research has been covered by the New York Times, the BBC, the Star, and a number of other outlets, and has galvanized both Twitter and TikTok to remove disinformation from its platform.