As Kenyans head to the polls in what is expected to be a tightly contested election, we look at the media coverage around the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta and his old rival Raila Odinga.

When Kenyatta and Odinga faced each other back in 2013, it was thought the innovative use of social media was key for a Kenyatta win.

Kenyans are very active on WhatsApp, they're very active on Telegram, this has fueled a lot of fake news and some of these conversations that start online, they influence our conversations offline.

Njoki Chege, reporter, Daily Nation

However, this time round, Kenya is facing a different kind of phenomenon. The emergence of fake news stories circulating online, and the speed with which these stories are spreading, is causing alarm among the general public.

"Kenyans are very active on WhatsApp, they're very active on Telegram, this has fuelled a lot of fake news and some of these conversations that start online, they influence our conversations offline," says Njoki Chege, a reporter at the Daily Nation.

But it's not only fake news that has voters concerned.

In the past few weeks, attention has focused on Kenyatta's reported relationship with Cambridge Analytica, an international data crunching firm. The company operates in the murky political margins and the people behind it have, to varying degrees, been credited with helping land Donald Trump in the White House and with helping the "Leave" side win Britain's Brexit referendum.

Roughly one month before the election day, Kenyans began seeing a new video on their social media feeds. It's called "Raila 2020", and purports to provide a vision of what the country would look like, three years into a Raila Odinga presidency.

"It was a very scary video. It set out to portray a post-apocalypse Kenya, where, after Raila becomes president, everything falls apart," says political commentator Macharia Gaitho.

The video shows "a Kenya full of violence, the opposition would be stifled, every public infrastructure would be dilapidated," says Alphonce Shiundu, Kenya editor of Africa Check.

Robi Ochieng, an academic at the United States International University - Africa, explains that "social media isn't governed by advertising laws in Kenya, therefore, everybody has the freedom in anonymity to put up whatever they wish to put up on social spaces. And the forces that are churning out this information are three steps ahead of these people who are trying to man the internet. So it becomes not a very easy thing to curb information from spreading because of the speed at which messages are sent online."

Cambridge Analytica told The Listening Post it has no connection to the Raila 2020 video but refuses to say what services, if any, it is providing the Kenyatta campaign.

That's the kind of non-clarification that, in a campaign rife with forged logos, fabricated by-lines and all kinds of fake news, fits right in.

Contributors:

Njoki Chege, reporter, Daily Nation
Macharia Gaitho, political commentator
Robi Ochieng, academic, United States International University - Africa
Alphonce Shiundu, Kenya editor, Africa Check

Source: Al Jazeera