A new report by the Mozilla Foundation shows that certain TikTok accounts are twisting Kenya’s fraught political history ahead of the country’s general elections which will take place later this year.
For the report, the Foundation studied 130 videos from 33 accounts with a combined total of 4 million views, many of which contained explicit threats of ethnic violence.
One of the videos, for example, claims that William Ruto, current Deputy President and presidential candidate, “hates Kikuyus and wants to take revenge come 2022.” Another claims that the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a notable political party in Kenya, could be used to remove “madoadoas”.
Madoadoas—translation: “blemish” or “spot”—is a derogatory term used by Kenyan politicians to refer to tribes other than their own, especially the Kikuyu, Kisii, Luo and other settlements in Kenya’s rift valley.
Disinformation during election periods is rampant. From the 2016 US elections to gubernatorial elections in Chad, Senegal, and Ethiopia, social media has been found to play a strong role in how people get information and vote. Facebook, for example, has been accused of allowing Ethiopian leaders to use its platform to promote ethnic violence and civil unrest ahead of its elections last year. The same platform was also manipulated for the US 2016 Presidential election.
This kind of disinformation also means that African governments have more excuses to block citizens’ access to the internet. At least 15 African countries including Uganda, Togo, and Cameroon have enforced full or partial bans because of this.
According to Mastercard, TikTok is yet to take down these videos or sanction the accounts posting them despite the fact that the content breaks TikTok’s policy on hate speech, discrimination, and disinformation.