5 takeaways from Kenya’s 2022 Presidential Election

August 27, 2022

Election disinformation and misinformation are not unique problems that selectively impact democracy in the United States. Around the world, countries grapple with the consequences of bad information on social media. During Kenya’s recent Presidential Election, Twitter became a battleground. Bad actors used logistical delays with vote tallying and poorly timed social media outages to spin narratives and create chaos. In the absence of content moderators, Kenyan citizens rapidly debunked disinformation.

Offline, a bitter political dispute is unfolding in Kenya. William Ruto, the current Deputy President, was declared president elect last week. However, candidate Raila Odinga rejected the outcome of the election and is refusing to concede. Now, Odinga is challenging the results in Kenya’s Supreme Court.

Observing the spread of social media disinformation in international elections can be useful as we deal with similar online and offline issues in the U.S.

Here are five, key takeaways from the election-related Twitter activity:

1. Outdated images were used to spread misinformation

On the day the election results were announced, bad actors used an image from 2017 to develop a narrative suggesting that active and widespread civil unrest was taking place in Kenya.

2. Citizens turned to social media for live updates about the election. Unrelated to events unfolding in Kenya, Twitter experienced widespread glitches that impacted connectivity. Initial rumors suggested that the outages were somehow related to the election.

Having uninterrupted access to social media platforms is critical.

3. In the absence of content moderation, Kenyan citizens debunked rumors on social media

4. Unofficial reports on the outcome of the election were poorly moderated by Twitter.

5. Election denialism is not unique to the United States

For the third time in a row, Raila Odinga has challenged the result of Kenya’s presidential elections. The 77-year-old long-time opposition leader has been ridiculed by some as a bad loser, but analysts say his petitions have been crucial in shaping and strengthening the conduct of elections in Kenya, so whatever the Supreme Court decides, this case will help improve subsequent polls. -BBC News (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-62599219)

Sarah Mojarad
USC Research Fellow, Disinformation and Misinformation
Lecturer, USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Sarah Mojarad is on the faculty at the University of Southern California. She is a lecturer in Viterbi School of Engineering, and her areas of expertise are in social media, science communication, and online misinformation.

Sarah conducts misinformation and disinformation workshops for the USC’s Election Cybersecurity Initiative. She is also Kavli Fellow, having recently organized the Misinformation, Disinformation, Polarization, and Social Media session at the 2022 US Kavli Frontiers Symposia.

Sarah has given talks, seminars, and keynote lectures around the world. She has been quoted by CNBC, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and CNN.