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Social media firms urged to move swiftly and flag down fake news

NATIONAL
By Patrick Vidija | October 13th 2021

Social media firms have been asked to take a front row in the fight against misinformation, disinformation and fake news.

During a debate at the United Nations Security Council, these firms were tasked to flag down such information that is deemed fake and crack the whip on individual perpetrators.

The high-level open debate of the Security Council, at the Heads of State and Government level, was chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Various representatives across the globe said these social media platforms remain a haven where individuals have shared information that has sparked violence, especially in African countries.

While briefing the media after the session, Uhuru said it was worth noting that although many populations across the globe have access to internet connectivity, populists continue to take advantage of the space with an intent to weaken state legitimacy.

He said elections across the world have become a zero-sum game where winner takes it all has resulted in bitterness that those aggrieved take up to social media to vent their anger.

“It is this bitterness that is carried on these social media platforms that are manipulated in disinformation that later cause incitement to violence,” Uhuru said.

While calling on governments to adopt the ‘hand shake’ model in handling grieving conflicts that spark divisions, Uhuru said the recent Military coups are a result of longstanding inequalities due to denied opportunities and poor management of diversity.

“As we advocate for the handshake experience to underscore political innovation for the security of citizens, we must champion for political competitions that guard against exploitation but promote social peace and unity,” he said.

He added, “As we push for appreciation of diversity and cohesion, there is, therefore, a need for a collaborative approach between governments and social media companies to counter hate speech.”

The calls come after a report established that the social media environment in the country is flooded with fake information.

According to the report, millions of Kenyans who spend most of their time online are finding it difficult to discern between what is true and what isn’t.

It should be a source of concern, given that it is happening during this crunch time, just a few months to the 2022 general elections.

A 2018 study by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholars found that false news spreads more rapidly on Twitter than real news does.

To conduct the study, the researchers tracked roughly 126,000 cascades of news stories spreading on Twitter, which were cumulatively tweeted over 4.5 million times by about 3 million people, from the years 2006 to 2017.

The study showed false news stories are 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are.

It said it takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.

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