Mitigating Election Violence through social media Micro-Influencers
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There has been a growing concern about the role of social media in peaceful elections in Kenya yet very minimal evidence that demonstrates the causal relation between social media and peaceful political transitions therefore presenting a gap that is worth exploring. Contrarily, evidence is abounded on how social media contributes to chaotic elections in Kenya with 2007, 2013 and 2017 serving as excellent examples. The good news, though, is that much of this evidence is local and focuses on the double-edged sword- nature of social media as both a tool for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. So, the question that begs then, is the extent to which this evidence has been utilized to inspire or inform program intervention at the praxis level locally. The answer to this critical question would explain why there is evidence gap on the direct role of social media in peaceful elections in Kenya which implies that there could be very few local interventions that are inspired by locally produced knowledge that would compel peace researchers to initiate ground -breaking studies that would further contribute to literature in the area. This study could not clearly get hold of any good examples as reference points. However, what has remained clear is the double- edged sword-nature of social media in electoral conflict and peacebuilding. The fact that social media can be used both for escalating conflict and peacebuilding is a reminder of its technical composition. However, the fact that it has thrived more in escalating electoral conflict than peacebuilding in Kenya and beyond, over the years, as shown by scholarly evidence, is a cause for concern. It seems as if social media operates within the confines of algorithms that amplifies negativity and makes it easier for misinformation and disinformation, hate speech and propaganda to spread and thrive. Nevertheless, in Kenya, the reality is that politically motivated ethnic hate is a product that is generated or manufactured consensually offline and sustained online bringing to the fore critical discussions of the online offline dynamics in addressing social media hate speech, misinformation and disinformation as ingredients for social media weaponization and therein violence. The study that this report is based on revealed that the latter is perpetrated by politicians who work in tandem with a significant number of unemployed youths for political mileage before, during and after elections. So, in mitigating social medias potential in conflict prevention and appraising its role as a tool for peace building, this policy related research report by the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security- Rongo University aims at supporting stakeholder in understanding the salience of local approaches and whole of society approach in interventions that would tap on social media affordances for peacebuilding. This would include appreciation of local produced evidence, local expertise (Southern Voices) and attendant recommendations coupled with the conceptualization of well thought out coordination mechanisms that would be able to address the online–offline triple dynamics of social media hate speech, misinformation and disinformation used as fuel for politically instigated violence going forward.