Verified Twitter accounts belonging to high-profile Kenyan citizens are being used to spin propaganda, push sponsored agendas using hashtags and fuel unfounded assertions. A report from the Mozilla foundation shows that the Twitter personalities are recruited by secret agencies to launch well coordinated online attacks by hijacking Twitter’s trending algorithm.
“This research provides a window into the booming and shadowy industry of Twitter influencers for political hire in Kenya. This industry’s main goal is to sway public opinion during elections and protests,” the report says.
The report further indicated that millions of Kenyans were being manipulated by the Tweeps whose main agenda involves swaying public opinion by disseminating false information on the platform.
“The platform allows malicious actors to run sock puppet accounts, create malicious content, generate fake engagement, and ultimately hijack Twitter’s very own trending algorithm. As a result, millions of Kenyans are being manipulated on Twitter,” it added.
Researchers also found well coordinated operations meted through WhatsApp groups. The tweeps are said to engage in the groups where they coordinate and synchronize the tweets. Through these groups, the influencers also receive instructions and campaign content, and payment for their services.
The influencers are reportedly paid between Sh1,000 to Sh1,500 to participate in three campaigns per day. Since verified accounts have more influence, they are rented with the sole purpose of pushing the dubious agendas.
According to the report, the situation worsened during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) campaigns. Judges and prominent personalities who did not support it were apparently targeted in the attacks during the period.
The Mozilla Foundation faulted Twitter for not doing much to arrest the situation which they say has gotten to dangerous levels. A s a result, Twitter took down about 100 accounts that were found to be engaging in platform manipulation, spamming and violation of its policies.