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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

How Kenya used Social Media to Inform Voters and Counter Fake News
In today's digital age, the internet has emerged as a means of communication, connecting many more people and expanding networks a great deal wider with unprecedented speed. While it has brought about several positive outcomes such as the democratization of knowledge and e-commerce, it has also been used as a conduit for expressions of hatred, bigotry, racism, homophobia, and other such scourges of humanity. Such expressions [often referred to as digital violence] are forms of electoral violence and lead to direct and structural violence and affect the conditions necessary for free, fair and safe participation in election of all voters.

Well established, newly established and transitioning democracies are all vulnerable to the occurrence and ill-effects of fake news and electoral violence. This is increasingly becoming a larger problem as civic engagement today takes place in a rapidly evolving information ecosystem.

Globally, Information Operations, as defined by Facebook, is at the heart of organized actors' digital strategy to use a combination of disrupter methods such as false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion and diminishing the civic and political space.

Tools to prevent "fake news" (false news, false amplifiers and disinformation), violent extremism, radicalization and digital violence are in our hands but are not as widely used as we would like, especially during elections. As civic and voter educators, we are able to help constructively shape the emerging information ecosystem by ensuring digital platforms remain a safe and secure environment for authentic civic engagement.

With Facebook's new Explorer function, more and more people are seeing information from their friends and family only, as opposed to paid media. What this means is that they end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies and possibly bogus information that is spread by family and friends such as inaccurate news articles that are widely commented on.

In a world where everyone is a potential amplifier global reach is now possible, we need to do more to counter fake news where it magnifies or drives digital violence or threatens the civic space and create common definitions and tools, because without them, we cannot understand or fully address these issues.

In Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is mandated to conduct continuous voter education in Kenya, so in 2017, ahead of the Kenyan general elections, the IEBC set out to work collaboratively with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), through the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program (KEAP) to improve outreach and voter education efforts for meaningful electoral participation.

Through a collaborative effort between researchers, the IEBC's Voter Education and Partnerships Department, the IEBC's Communications Department and IFES' strategic communications specialists a robust voter education effort consisting of the YVOTE (Youth Vote) activation campaign, digital outreach, voter motivational ads and voter education ads were organized.

This outreach effort was situated in a larger interdisciplinary approach to strategic communications for preventing and responding to false news and misinformation that could lead to digital and electoral violence or disenfranchisement of voters. Expertise was generated through multiple efforts such as primary and secondary research and the development of resources, tools and creative content. The aim was to improve media literacy and implement an effective digital interrupter strategy to compliment voter education efforts.

Together with the IEBC, KEAP designed the target audience based on census, socio economic and voter registration data to help ensure that IEBC resources could be used in a targeted way. This analysis affirmed that 18-29 year olds were the largest population most eligible to register as voters but were the least registered, and that they are the poorest, often living in high density, low income areas.

A variety of digital tools were used such as Google adwords search and display, digital banners, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube ads, graphics and videos, third party social media platforms, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram analytics, paid channel management, content production, digital PR, social listening and landing pages. Segmented audiences were targeted with digital and social media ads based on demographics, geographics and psychographics (interest/user behavior based).

Innovatively, the IEBC sought to leverage new media to interrupt misinformation and fake news on the Kenyan general elections and developed innovative distribution models that served the electoral commission, segments of the public and other organizations in their quest for truthful information.

Facebook recently reported that by developing and disseminating content that incorporates information on how to prevent, deter and recognize "fake news" it will improve media literacy and help people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.

Myth buster ads were used to quell emerging and potential rumors and miss information that was circulating on social media and from real time feedback from the Get Out the Vote activation campaign. The aim was to state the facts and dispel the myths, which would enhance the legitimacy of the electoral process, the electoral commission and help improve the likelihood that the voter would cast a valid vote peacefully.

For the most part, myth buster ads were unbranded (did not bear any organizational logo), however the 'Now You Know' brand identity was created to give it a unique identifying factor. This was appropriate for the time and context however will not always work. For myth busting ads to be effective, the message and the messenger need to be credible and reliable. Some of the myth busting "Now You Know" ads were posted and promoted from the YVOTE campaign social media pages, however on other occasions the "Now You Know" ads were promoted unbranded on Facebook. KEAP made this strategic decision on case by case basis based on the rumors and myths that were circulating and determined who (if any) would be the most credible messenger at that time. Myth buster nuanced messaging included vote motivators which were pre-tested and that encouraged voter participation.

Communication interventions were prioritized so that we understood 'the most pressing need' of the segmented audience to improve information and awareness of voting processes and maintain credible communications.

At the end of the voter education campaign, 16,667,755 people were reached through social and digital media.

It is essential that voter educators and electoral management bodies are able to embolden the way that they communicate, educate and engage in order to promote an active and meaningful civic participation.

The digital information ecosystem is rapidly evolving. It is prudent that voter educators stay abreast of recent digital/social developments in order to push digital frontiers with voter education efforts. Many civil society organizations, electoral management bodies and voter educators rely mainly on offline interventions or top down digital and social media communications. We need to document, track and work alongside our counterparts to inspire them and to build their capabilities to think more strategically about how to design interdisciplinary approaches to civic education that is rooted in social and behavior change communications, and the importance of coupling a strategic communications strategy that is data and insight driven with traditional voter education initiatives. It is hoped this approached will improve the communication conditions for meaningful engagement in the electoral process.

Social Links to YVOTE Campaign
YVOTE website: https://www.iebc.or.ke/yvote/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YVoteKenya-296869347439324
Twitter: https://twitter.com/YvoteKenya
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/YvoteKenya/

Sample Myth Buster Ads

Dead voters Unbranded animated ad to demystify that people who have deceased can vote https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7XOqMhe1uIPa1JSZUtpcTB4NTA/view?usp=sharing
Ballot stuffing Unbranded ad which reinforces the measures that are there to
safeguard the ballot
Voting more than once Unbranded ad which explains that KIEMS kit cannot transmit more votes than there are
Polling Unbranded social media ad which counteracts the rumor that you can vote
in any polling station
Form 34A IEBC branded infomercial to inform the public about what Form 34A is https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7XOqMhe1uIPeW0waHNWUW8yYUk/view?usp=sharing
Results transmission IEBC branded infomercial to inform the public about the results counting, tally and transmission
Citizens' role Unbranded TV ad to encourage citizens to constructively participate. It is a two part ad which
leads into the latter

 Carla Chianese,
Civic and Voter Education Specialist
International Foundation for Electoral Systems
Kenya Electoral Assistance Program