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Mozilla research says TikTok is being used in Kenya to spread disinformation

On 9th August, the citizens of Kenya will be heading to voting polls to make their voices known at the country’s general elections. As has become an increasingly concerning trend, social media is being used to sow disinformation ahead of the elections.

This according to the Mozilla Foundation, which recently published a report noting how TikTok is being used to spread disinformation in Kenya.

To reach this assertion, the Mozilla Foundation investigated 130 viral videos from the region, which seemingly featured content that had hate speech, incitement to violence and political disinformation.

“In this report, we examine a sample of problematic political content on the platform: over 130 videos from 33 accounts which have been viewed collectively over 4 million times. Our analysis reveals that hate speech, incitement against communities, and synthetic and manipulated content — despite being in violation of TikTok’s very own policies — is both present and spreading on the platform,” explained the Mozilla Foundation in the report which is available to download as PDF here.

“Our research suggests that Kenyan TikTok has become a breeding ground for propaganda, hate speech, and disinformation about Kenya’s election. A highly sophisticated disinformation campaign is underway on the platform, which includes slickly produced video content and attack ads spewing false claims about candidates, while also threatening various ethnic communities. Many of the videos are getting outsized viewership in comparison to their followership — and according to researchers, this suggests that the content may be gaining amplification from TikTok’s For You Page algorithm,” it adds.

Like many other platforms, it looks like the pervasiveness of the algorithm which drives TikTok, is the reason why disinformation and misinformation does so well.

“The upshot is that TikTok is failing its first real test in Africa. Rather than learn from the mistakes of more established platforms like Facebook and Twitter, TikTok is following in their footsteps, hosting and spreading political disinformation ahead of a delicate African election,” the Mozilla Foundation highlights.

As for what action, if any, the Kenyan government plans to take should these claims indeed be true, remains to be seen.

Whether TikTok will do anything is also unclear, with a spokesperson telling Wired that it is, “committed to protecting the integrity of (its) platform and have a dedicated team working to safeguard TikTok during the Kenyan elections.”

The spokesperson added that, it works with fact-checking organisations like Agence France-Presse in Kenya and plans to roll out features to connect its “community with authoritative information about the Kenyan elections in our app.”

While those plans sound promising, with the elections two months away, has the damage already been done?

 

 

[Image – Photo by Eyestetix Studio on Unsplash]

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