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Inside the Shadowy World of Disinformation-for-Hire in Kenya

Monday September 13, 2021. 08:05 PM , from Slashdot
New research by Mozilla Fellows Odanga Madung and Brian Obilo reveals that Kenyan journalists, judges, and other members of civil society are facing coordinated disinformation campaigns on Twitter -- and that Twitter is doing very little to stop it. Highlights of the investigation include: Disinformation campaigns are a lucrative business. One interviewee revealed that disinformation influencers are paid roughly between $10 and $15 USD to participate in three campaigns per day. Payments are made directly to the influencers through the mobile money platform MPESA.

Twitter's trending algorithm is amplifying these campaigns, and Twitter is placing ads amid all this misinformation. Eight of the 11 campaigns examined reached the trending section of Twitter. The campaigners we spoke to told us that this is their number one target, as it affords them the amplification they seek.

These campaigns run like a well-oiled machine. One of the influencers who researchers spoke to explained a complex system of using Whatsapp groups to coordinate and synchronize tweets and messaging. Anonymous organizers use these groups to send influencers cash, content, and detailed instructions.

These campaigns are increasingly targeting individuals. No longer focusing on just broad issues and events, disinformation campaigns are increasingly identifying and targeting individuals, like members of the Linda Katiba movement and the Kenyan judiciary. This work is also beginning to border on incitement and advocacy of hatred, which is against Kenyan Law.

Verified accounts are complicit. One influencer we spoke to claimed that the people who own coveted 'blue check' accounts will often rent them out for disinformation campaigns. These verified accounts can improve the campaign's chances of trending.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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