Get Informed, Stay Inspired

Tackling fake news in Kenya: A UN Resident Coordinator blog
Africa World News

Tackling fake news in Kenya: A UN Resident Coordinator blog

Stephen Jackson, the United Nations’ representative in Kenya, looks back on the 2022 elections. The successful collaboration between the government and private sector was key in combating false information.

Hatred is not innate. It is learned and then perpetuated.

In recent times, the Secretary-General has noted that social media and other online platforms, powered by algorithms and AI, have allowed harmful messages filled with hate and false information to rapidly spread.

Stephen Jackson of Ireland is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

United Nations

Ireland’s Stephen Jackson is currently serving as the Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in Kenya.

Hate speech and false information are causing problems in various countries, regardless of their economic status. These issues are putting social unity at risk, causing disruption and uncertainty, dividing communities, inciting violence both online and offline, and eroding trust in democratic systems.

Kenya is not an exception.

‘Avalanches of hateful messaging’

During times of elections, hate speech and false information can be highly disruptive. The influx of hateful messages and conflicting narratives can make it difficult for voters to differentiate between what is true and false, and what is considered the “truth” versus conspiracy theories.

According to a survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 75% of those surveyed in Kenya struggle to differentiate between real and fake news online.

In anticipation of the 2022 presidential elections, the Kenyan government and the Resident Coordinator’s office took swift action upon realizing the magnitude of this danger.

‘Milestone’ anti-hate speech action plan

In June of 2022, the country of Kenya implemented a plan to combat hate speech as a component of their Roadmap for Peaceful Elections. This plan aims to address and prevent the spread of false information and incitement through social media, while also promoting peaceful counter-messaging.

After assisting Kenya in creating this significant plan, the United Nations was also committed to discovering creative methods to aid in its execution.

The initial process involved equipping Kenyan organizations with the capability to promptly track and monitor hate speech, as well as comprehend the context in which it spreads.

Two women seeking to become part of the political process in Kenya exchange ideas.

I am not able to reword this as it is a copyright statement with a photographer’s name.

Two Kenyan women discuss their desire to participate in politics and share their thoughts.

Countering hate speech in real-time

Due to the intricate and constantly evolving nature of social media, this task could not have been accomplished single-handedly. It necessitated the formation of a partnership involving multiple stakeholders, including government officials, members of civil society, influential local figures, and the social media platforms themselves.

With the support and coordination of the UN Resident Coordinator and the crucial efforts of our peace, development, and human rights advisors, we were able to successfully achieve our goals.

We assisted the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the Media Council of Kenya in establishing a cutting-edge consortium with private sector collaborators to promptly monitor and combat hate speech.

A woman casts her vote in Kenya's election.

© UNDP Kenya

A female individual casts her ballot in the election taking place in Kenya.


An advanced internet-based system for providing early alerts.

The Mapema Consortium in Kenya, with assistance from the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the German Embassy, collaborated with AI startups, youth media platforms, and online influencer organizations to create a cutting-edge early warning system called “Mapema” (which means “early” in Swahili).

This system was able to identify both the originators and spreaders of false information, monitoring in real time in English, Swahili, and Sheng, the slang used by Kenyan youth.

By utilizing current monitoring systems for traditional media outlets, we assisted the capable Kenyan organizations in creating a clearer understanding of the networks and individuals involved in spreading disinformation.

Continuing the strong battle

However, we must not halt our efforts at this point. Even after the election, it is crucial for international partners, such as the UN, to support Kenya in enhancing its impressive democracy. This includes continuing to combat the spread of hate speech and strengthening accountability measures. It is imperative for the government to have long-term capabilities to minimize the harmful effects of hate speech on public life in Kenya.

UN Resident Coordinator

  • The UN Resident Coordinator, also known as the RC, is the most senior representative of the United Nations development system within a specific country.

  • In this series, UN News is asking RCs to share their thoughts on topics that are significant to both the UN and the nation they represent.

  • Discover additional information about the United Nations’ efforts in Kenya here.

  • You can find the case study about creative partnerships in Kenya by clicking on the link provided.

  • Find out more about the UN Development Coordination Office here.