How Raila 'loyalists' spread fake news about IEBC commissioners


Social media was quite instrumental in the just concluded General elections in the country. But if there is one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb is how netizens used the social media platforms to spread disinformation around the just concluded August 9 polls.

Right from the first day of vote-tallying, the socials were awash with fake/unverified news. Different camps used the platforms to declare their favorable aspirants winners even before the tallying was concluded.

So rife was the spread of fake news that even high profile personalities fell right into the disinformation trap. Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed were some of the political class fingered for spreading fake news before the elections. 

A case in point is Azimio La Umoja’s presidential running mate Martha Karua, who was left with an egg on the face after sending a congratulatory tweet to out-going Kirinyaga Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici.

Martha Karua

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua. Her application to prosecute Jubilee Party agents and officials of IEBC was dismissed for lack of merit.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The sad bit is, we are not out of the woods yet with the fake news.

On Sunday, just hours before the Azimio La Umoja team filed a petition at the Supreme Court challenging the announcement of DP William Ruto as the President-elect, Prof Guliye was among the top Twitter trends. #IEBCCommsioners was also Mondays top trending topic.

But what had these bosses of the poll agency done to warrant being a trending topic around the disputed August 9 polls?

For context, Professor Abdi Yakub Guliye is one of the seven Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners.

Prof Abdi Guliye on January 11, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Prof Guliye was trending with reports that he and his colleague Mr Marjan Hussein had decided to testify against the IEBC Chairperson, Mr Wafula Chebukati, at the Supreme Court.

Given that the commission is already split with four of the commissioners distancing themselves from the final presidential results, the disinformation that Prof Guliye and Mr Hussein had also abandoned Chebukati spread like a wild-fire.

There was no official statement to show that indeed the two commissioners had decided to testify against their boss and so we treat this as just another case of fake news on Social media.

But who exactly are the people/handles behind these unsubstantiated news?  

@ConradKulo- This was the handle that seemingly posted the unverified news first as a breaking news alert.

The tweet got massive engagement being that the handle has over 5,000 twitter followers.

How Conrad Kulo spread the fake news about the IEBC commissioners.

A quick look into the handle shows an ardent supporter of the Azimio La Umoja faction and a deep critic of the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

@KK_Mbogo – This is another handle that massively contributed to the spread of the misinformation about  Prof Guliye. In a move that seems well-coordinated, this handle tweeted at the same exact time that @conradkulo tweeted and it was the same exact breaking news tweet.

With over 6,000 followers, the tweet gained instant engagement.

How kk_mbogo spread the fake news about the IEBC commissioners.

Once again, going by the tweets and retweets on this timeline the person behind is Mr Odinga’s diehard supporter.

@JaneFKyalo- Interestingly, this handle that also contributed to this trend was only created this month and has over 6,000 followers already.

The description on the handle’s bio reads as Raila Odinga loyalist|| I love mathematics|| mother and wife. All the tweets and retweets on this handle surely point to a Raila loyalist.

But could we be looking at a bot account? With the fast gain of followers and the lack of a location or site link, this could be just another bot,

These three accounts are not the only ones that pushed the trend up, but they are among the key players.

A map of how @janefkyalo spread the fake news about the IEBC commissioners.

The spreaders of this news did not stop at just tweeting. They also seemingly went ahead to create a Twitter handle with Prof Guliye’s name for it to look like it really belongs to the commissioner.

But the timing- reads that it was opened this month, again, is suspect. The handle also has only four tweets, all curiously posted on Sunday.

Editors note: This story is part of @nation journalism around social media analytics to de-mystify the Twitter accounts pushing trending topics in Kenya, and the faces behind them.