How Twitter plans to promote healthy conversations during Kenya elections

Godfrey Elimian
Twitter has announced its commitment to providing a level playing field for all candidates and their supporters to air their opinions…
Kenya elections
What is the role of Twitter in Kenya elections

On Tuesday 9th August, voters in Kenya will be heading to the polls in a General Elections that will see them elect a new President, as well as members of the National Assembly and members of the Senate. Also, some county governors and candidates for the country’s 47 county assemblies will also be on the ballot this year. 

One effort that might go unnoticed through the electioneering process is Twitter’s contribution as a de-facto town hall in which conversations emerge, giving a unique voice offering to both the electorates and politicians jostling for one position or the other.

We have seen the impact of social media in various democracies across the world such as the United States of America (USA), Nigeria, Ghana, Israel and the Middle East where social revolutions were fueled by online conversations.

Ahead of the polls in Kenya, Twitter has announced its commitment to providing a level playing field for all candidates and their supporters to air their opinions. The platform believes that this will further entrench the rights of the citizens to have a voice irrespective of their political leanings.

How Meta is preparing for Kenya's elections | TechCabal
How Meta is preparing for Kenya’s elections | TechCabal

In this report, we will be sharing some insights into some tools that the platform has devised to actualise its objective to become a centralised hub for real-time political conversation and commentary, electoral resources and many more.

Twitter’s ads are no longer for sale

To further establish its platform as an engaging and healthy platform for political discourse; Twitter in 2019 banned political ads as they believed political messaging should be earned, not bought.

Also, the social media platform has expanded their policies around election misinformation and continue to add context and notices to Tweets with manipulated media, to ensure people have the context they need. 

Twitter has become a political hub for real-time political conversation and commentary, electoral resources, journalistic reports live from the campaign trail as well as a tool for people to hear directly from political representatives themselves. And, the platform is seeking to project its neutrality in spite of financial prospects.

Related story: Can social media really influence the 2023 elections in Nigeria?

Specific actions for KenyaDecides2022

Specifically for the elections in Kenya, Twitter has put in place some guidelines:

Kenya Decides 2022
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies – University of Notre Dame
  • Twitter has announced through its Kenya Elections blog post, the introduction of a custom Emoji, for everyone that wants to discuss the election on Twitter. This forms part of efforts to foster and facilitate free, open and healthy electoral conversations during the elections.
  • The special elections emoji can be activated by the hashtags #KenyaDecides, #KenyaDecides2022, #electionske #electionske2022, and features a ballot box emblazoned with the Kenyan flag.
  • With the hashtags, it will be even easier to join the conversation on Twitter about the elections. People on Twitter will be able to find Tweets faster and it will be much easier for everyone to respond.
  • The blog also shares steps taken towards amplifying verified election information, and insights into Twitter’s work with trusted local partners ahead of the elections.
Partnership with Africa Check

As part of its work to improve the health of the public conversation, particularly during elections – the platform is extending its reach beyond Twitter to integrate diverse perspectives. Twitter has partnered with a number of organisations to further amplify credible information during the Kenyan election.

One such partner is Africa Check. It was established in 2012 as the continent’s first independent, nonpartisan fact-checking organisation that debunks dangerous statements, and empowers people to engage with information critically, while building a culture of fact-checking across Africa. 

We are pleased to collaborate with Twitter as part of our election work in Kenya. The collaboration will allow us to address dis- and misinformation by fact-checking claims and identifying potential misinformation…Notably, the partnership with Twitter will deepen the impact of our media literacy project as it will allow us to reach a broader audience.

Africa Check – Independent, nonpartisan fact-checking organisation‎ @AfricaCheck‎

Twitter has come out to assert that partnership is key to the protection of the election conversation and hence, looks forward to continued partnerships and collaboration with Africa Check and all other partner organisations, up to and after the Kenyan elections. 

Verifications

Ahead of the elections, Twitter has worked with Kenyan partner organisations on verifying accounts of Government Agencies, Candidates, Political Parties, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), News Organisations and content creators.

Twitter Plans to Reopen Account Verifications In 2021, as Users Suggest ID Validation

The blue Verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic and notable – giving people on Twitter more context about who they’re having conversations with so they can determine the way in which they engage with a certain account.

Amplifying Credible Information 

Another major step taken by Twitter is to ensure that voters in Kenya are directed to credible information while they spend time on the platform. In line with this efforts to amplify credible information, the following features has been launched:

Kenya general elections 2022
#KenyaDecides2022: Twitter takes steps towards promoting credible elections in Kenya
  • Custom Kenyan election Emoji: Twitter has launched a custom Kenyan elections emoji that will be activated by the hashtags #KenyaDecides, #KenyaDecides2022, #electionske #electionske2022.

    The special emoji, which pictures a ballot box with the Kenyan flag draped around it, aims to promote the discoverability of the election conversation and encourage active citizenship and a peaceful election process.
  • Kenyan Election Prompt: Also, Twitter has launched an election prompt in collaboration with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in both English and Swahili.

    The search prompt is a notification service that directs people in Kenya to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC’s) website where Kenyans will be able to access credible information about the elections when searching for keywords on Twitter, associated with the Kenyan General Election.
  • Twitter Moments: Twitter’s Curation team is also supporting the 2022 Kenyan Elections with the creation of election Moments which are curated stories designed to address misleading and false information around the presidential elections.

    These Twitter Moments will include key dates, and general guidelines for participating in the electoral process from credible sources, including Kenya’s electoral regulator IEBC, media outlets, and fact-checking organizations.
Policy enforcement 

In addition to enforcing key Policies on Hateful Conduct and Abusive Behaviour, the platform has also implemented a clear Civic Integrity Policy so that people cannot use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes. 

Kenya General elections 2022
#KenyaDecides2022

The Policy targets the most directly harmful types of content, such as (but not limited to) misleading information about how to participate in an election or misleading information that intends to intimidate or dissuade people from participating in an election.

Read also: Tech Bytes Podcast #7: Can social media influence the 2023 elections?

Local engagement 

As part of its team efforts at collaboration, Twitter has also offered safety and security training to partner organisations, bringing them through tools such as mute, block and report, as well as various security tips and techniques such as two-factor authentication. 

The established cross-functional 2022 Kenyan elections team at Twitter, will work to protect the integrity of the election-related conversation, support partner groups and political representatives as well as identifying and curbing any threat to the integrity of the 2022 Kenyan election conversation on Twitter. 


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