GARISSA
/ FILE

It is a cinch that campaigns preceding the August 8 general election were the fiercest and was fought just as tersely on the campaign trail as it was done online.

In the weeks leading to the D-day, smear campaigns against Nasa Leader and then Presidential candidate Raila Odinga believed to have been engineered by Cambridge Analytica surfaced online.

The two anonymous and mysterious sites dubbed Uhuru For Us and The Real Raila both showed what Uhuru has achieved in his tenure and what he intends to achieve while the other painting Odinga as a violent, corrupt man respectively flooded Social platforms including Twitter, You tube and Facebook.

However, it has been revealed that the career ending campaign was spearheaded by Harris Media a communication company based in Austin Texas.

According to Privacy International (a UK-based registered charity that defends and promotes the right to privacy across the world), Harris media are a digital advertising and creative agency for primarily political clients.

It uses data analytics to create political campaigns that target audiences using information gleaned from how people use their social media accounts. Its previous clients include the Trump campaign and several far-right European parties.

It is the same Media Agency that put out paid adverts that dominated the google search engine in the run up to the elections.

The website named the ‘Real Raila’ painted the opposition leader as a tribal leader who would evict communities from certain parts of Kenya if elected.

The documentary was posted to social media anonymously. Privacy International speculates that Harris Media released this video on behalf President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Media Agency disguised themselves as Kenyans that were dedicated to uncovering the truth about the real threat to Kenya’s peace and unity.

Read:Exclusive: Raila Opens Up About Elections, DP Ruto, Says He Suffers From Amnesia

Currently the website has been inaccessible and one would need authorization to access the content within the website.

It is alleged that Harris Media also used ads tied to google search to spread divisive and  untruthful messages that are said to have been linked to Kenya’s violent past.

The media agency was said to have also been part of the campaign team for Donald Trump to paint immigrants as violent ,the Benghazi paranoia and also the German far right politician.

Though they have always been quick to acknowledge their work, they have been under wraps over the Kenyan issue.

The Uhuru For Us Twitter Account still appears linked to a Harris Media email address. Created in March 2017, its first follower was Dennis Itumbi, President Kenyatta’s Digital Media Strategist.

This raises serious concerns about the role and responsibility of companies working for political campaigns in Kenya’s volatile political climate, particularly considering The Real Raila’s incendiary claims include that Raila’s administration would “remove some tribes” for example.

It also highlights the risks inherent to voter profiling and micro-targeting in a country with no data protection laws meaning there is potentially disproportionate and sensitive amounts Kenyans’ data being collected, shared and further processed without being subject to any regulations and independent oversight.

” If the millions of dollars that political campaigns are willing to spend globally to target their messages to a tracked audience are any indication, then the content of those messages matters. Such tactics require transparency, especially in as polarized and tense a society as Kenya. “Even at the point of casting a vote,” says  Dr. Joseph Nasongo of National Integration and Cohesion Commission

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