Time to Vote And Keep Peace But Be Aware Of The Dangers of Social Media

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It is decision time for Kenyans and we all hope that whatever the outcome, Kenyans will accept the winner and move forward.  It is great to see the effort being put in place to achieve peace and avoid what happened in 2008. I must caution people that the battle is not yet won. If you remember in December 2007, people voted peacefully and many of us were shocked at what transpired three days later. For that I will urge all the people involve to ensure that the elections are free  and fair to the extent that nobody would say anything to the contrary. At the same time, Kenyans should realize that we need this country stable and no matter what, killing each other is not the way to go. Elections come and go but the beautiful people killed can not be recovered forever. Having said that I wanted to talk a  little bit about the dangers of Social Media and why all Kenyans should be alert of what they see online.

ODM and TNA Supporters in Town before the Final Rallies

Out there , there a number of organizations checking out for  hate speech online or what now being called Dangerous Speech. The government have indicated that they will arrest two bloggers for the  spreading hate speech. I will wait to hear what they have been charged with exactly before I can comment on their cases. But here is the definition of Hate Speech:

“that which advocates or encourages violent acts against a specific group, and creates a climate of hate or prejudice,
which may, in turn, foster the commission of hate crimes.”  The current definition of  “hate speech”, according to the
National Cohesion and Integration Commission Act of 2008 is speech

As for Dangerous Speech according to Umati project run by Ushahidi:

Dangerous Speech is hate speech with a potential to cause violence. (Professor Susan Benesch, American University)

Being on social media and having witnessed what happened in 2008, I realised that sometime there are some speeches which on the face value can not be called hate speech or dangerous speech but have the potential of bringing down a stable society. I call them the  intentional wrong information and Social Media is becoming a darling home for such.. Social Media as it is and the people who use it have one thing in common, they  don’t verify or research whether the information they see on their  TimeLines are True of False.  A tweet or status update is taken as it appears and very few go back to try and understand the origin of  any given  info.

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For example the first day  of the party nominations in Kenya, (that Thursday) when both TNA and ODM were meant to do their nominations, voting did not take place in many places. In places that people voted, the ballot boxes arrived late, so the voting resumed the following day. But on Social Media , on that night, people were celebrating that candidates X, Y, and Z have lost the nominations. It is sad that most guys knew that the voting had not taken place in most of  those constituencies and counties but continued to share the wrong info about the candidates losing .Through the social media  the ground was poisoned and many people were not ready to hear that the candidates they support might lose. Clearly the winners and losers were already been declared on Twitter. Of course the  party nominations were, let me borrow the Kenyan Media house term, “shambolic” but there was no need of spreading the wrong information. It was evident that some former Mps were/are really hated by Kenyans on twitter, but again that does not excuse the spreading of the wrong information. After voting today please watch out for the rumor mongers, they are more dangerous that what is typically known as hate speech in Kenya.

You must also have seen a lot of propaganda on Facebook by the so called experts. Well everyone is in one way or another is an expert on Facebook. The problem is majority of the experts have evil intention of bringing down their imagined enemies, who are basically candidates or supporters of the opponent for their preferred candidate .  The Facebook experts are experts at twisting what has been said by a given candidate.  The only way to avoid being conned by these people is not to take anything you see on Facebook as the gospel truth unless verified.

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Finally, the journalists covering the elections should be careful with what they tweet or post on Facebook. Again during party nominations, one journalist seating at a tallying center kept telling people that he has nothing to report as the counting had not started but on his timeline on Twitter he was tweeting about a certain candidate winning with a given margin. Yes he clearly indicated that the figures given are from the candidate himself but given the nature of twitter, people don’t want to understand otherwise, especially if they hate the guy losing. It is worth noting that most people these days don’t watch TVs but they are always on twitter and Facebook.  The journalists covering the elections should tweet and facebook what is verified and leave the speculation to others.



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