Bloggers on high demand ahead of 2022 elections
Just months to the next General Election, political parties and politicians have upped their game ahead of the campaign period.
Toraise their chances in the game of numbers, parties have invested more on the social media reach in the coming election that will attract millions of first time voters.
Ideally, millions of young voters born after retired President Mwai Kibaki was elected in 2002 will be showing up at the voting booths and their numbers are expected to tilt the competition in the presidential contest.
Disinformation is the act of intentionally and knowingly sharing false or inaccurate content and thus, several bloggers have been busy developing blogs in support of their preferred candidates.
Jack Okinyi, a veteran journalist believes the bloggers have a way of influencing the poll through messages that target a certain class of people in the society.
“Yes, there is a chance that the bloggers hold sway to the outcome through messaging; an influence that reaches many within a short period of time.
You can see that some of the candidates are already engaging famous bloggers,” says Okinyi.
Our investigation reveals that the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party has engaged bloggers who are driving its message home.
Robert Alai, Disembe Dikembe, Philip Nyamai and a host of new names, are working for ODM, in a project managed by the party’s election director Junet Mohammed.
Alai has declared intention to run for the Nyando parliamentary seat and might not be available to be hired by a politician or political party.
The United Democratic Alliance (UDA), under Dennis Itumbi, hit the ground running a few months ago, offering a real challenge to the rest of the crowd that has been playing catch up on all fronts.
Milton Were; another influential blogger told People Daily that the bloggers have influence, though, it is limited to the people who follow them..
“They have influence. Imagine if you have Disembe or Alai in your team. The message reaches more than one million followers at the touch of a button.
On the other hand, the bloggers through their messages get to know what the opposition think and it helps the strategists at the campaign headquarters. I think they play a big role,” Were who runs Kenya Today blog says.
The blogs have been accused of spinning fake articles for advertising revenue and disinformation campaigns.
In Kenya, a group of bloggers who were paid to push trends with false content that maligned certain political actors say that the influence is more academic.
These disinformation campaigns are often well coordinated and targeted at a particular outcome.
Due to the potency of such campaigns in electoral contexts, they have previously been referred to as ‘distributed-denial-of-democracy attacks’.
The campaigns are often successful because of the second categorisation – the culture of misinformation.
In other words, the increasing likelihood of individuals to share false or inaccurate content unintentionally or inadvertently.
Misinformation can range from misleading or alarmist headlines to false claims passed on by people who had a good faith belief in the accuracy of those claims.
For example, a few years ago, the Kenya Bureau of Standards had to issue a statement denying the existence of “plastic rice” in Kenya following the circulation of a video on WhatsApp implying there was.
WhatsApp is a particularly notorious avenue through which misinformation is shared locally.
Even mainstream media is sometimes susceptible to sharing misinformation as was seen most recently when several newsrooms, reported that a Kenyan Senator dialled into a parliamentary debate session from a bar, due to a poorly edited clip that was circulating on social media.
They later had to recant the publication upon discovering it was an altered clip.
Cyprian Nyakundi, another fearless blogger says they have a constituency that they run in the country, though it cannot be quantified.
“We have a learned and tech-savvy population in the country. It does not mean that bloggers can be destructive as it is being portrayed, but, they have an influence.
Though not researched yet, you cannot attribute a voting pattern to bloggers. But, bloggers have a big following and can be a force to reckon with,” Nyakundi said.
Nyakundi is yet to declare the candidate he will be backing in 2022.
Abraham Mutai, who works for Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua campaign team believes that discerning factual information cannot be used to mean bloggers are destructive.
“How many people in Turkana or Mandera where there is erratic power supply and the internet can make decisions based on a blogger’s post?
Very few and the number cannot be quantified yet,” Maurice Amelemba, a Kakamega-based blogger working for ODM and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said.
Embakasi West MP George Theuri, running his own campaign blog says that he is sure the blog is appealing and in constant touch with his support base, which he says, comprises tech-savvy population.
“It is imperative that a blog is set up. In my case, most of the voters have smart phones and they will at all times be intouch with me.
The blog is an important tool in this era where information flies fast,” says the second time MP.
His Embakasi East counterpart Babu Owino who equally runs a widely followed blog says, it is a great tool to fight propaganda and fake news.
“As a politician and from past experience, there is so much fake news that flies around.
I need an active blog to keep pace with my competitors who are equally developing blogs to fight me,” the ODM legislator says.