It comes at a time when the prevalence of fake news, even outside politics is being felt.

Prevalence of fake/false news is on the rise in Kenya, a new study shows. The study, The Reality of Fake News in Kenya, reveals that 90 per cent of Kenyans have seen or heard false news about the 2017 General Election, with 87 per cent reporting instances of deliberately false – or fake – news.

The fake-news phenomenon is characterised by some websites and blogs or even the mainstream media deliberately publishing hoaxes, propaganda and misinformation, which are also shared on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, purporting the news to be real.

Steve Gutterman, CEO of GeoPoll, said that the growing mobile connectivity and usage in Kenya means that phones are increasingly being used to consume news and information, hence bigger population is prone to fake news.  “This survey has provided us with rich data on how much of an issue fake news is in Kenya and the impact it is having on how people access reliable information,” he said.

Related: Latest survey shows most popular TV and radio stations

It comes at a time when the prevalence of fake news, even outside politics is being felt. This is highly motivated by generating online traffic to websites and blogs which translates to more income.

In April, a lot of fake news regarding the selection of NASA’s flag bearer were published. Lately, ‘killing’ of prominent persons through fake news has been on the rise, with the likes of Comedian Churchil Ndambuki, veteran journalist Lenard Mambo Mbotela and even former President Mwai Kibaki.

The nationwide survey was led by strategic communications consultancy Portland in collaboration with GeoPoll, a mobile surveying platform.

Conducted via SMS, the survey asked a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Kenyans a series of questions about their consumption of news during May 2017 in relation to the forthcoming general election.

Related: Communication experts raise alarm over increased propaganda

The survey found traditional media remain the most trusted news sources, with television ranking highest, followed by radio and newspapers. Friends and family, and community leaders, are the least trusted sources of news overall, ranked as the least likely to provide accurate information about the general election.

According to Allan Kamau, Head of Portland Nairobi, said fake news is evidently now a core part of the news mix in Kenya.

Tackling fake news

“Kenyans are already well attuned to spotting false information. Respondents cited conflicting data, controversial messages and biased reporting as the top factors that lead them to suspect something is false. Getting even more sophisticated about spotting and tackling fake news will be vital in ensuring that credible news sources can maintain levels of trust,” says Kamau.

Radio is the most common source of news in Kenya, while social media is widely used by Kenyans of all ages to access and share news, with 49 per cent of Kenyans using social platforms to secure general election news.

However, social media consistently ranks lower than traditional media on trust.
Facebook and WhatsApp are the most popular social media platforms for news, preferred overall by 46 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

SEE: Comedian Churchill’s ‘death’ and the rise of fake news

A vast majority of Kenyans (78 per cent) would like more factual and accurate information about the general election instead of opinion and commentary. 57 per cent Kenyans feel able to access all the information about the general election that they need. 67 per cent of Kenyans prefer comprehensive and detailed information about politics while 33 per cent prefer summarised and concise information.

A partner at Portland, Robert Watkinson, said that the prevalence of fake news is a limiting factor on the electorate’s ability to make informed decisions.

Facts and counter-facts

“By revealing the scale and impact of fake news, we hope this study provides a new point of reference, not just for political campaigning in Kenya but also for all communicators seeking to engage Kenyans in the digital age,” said Watkinson.

In an article published by The Standard, a technology author and co-founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kellysays that the major challenge in reporting news is the new shape of truth. “Truth is no longer dictated by authorities, but is networked by peers. For every fact, there is a counterfact. All those counter-facts and facts look identical online, which is confusing to most people,” Kelly said.\

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