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The battle for Kenyan voters’ allegiance in the 2017 Presidential election was fought on social media and the blogosphere. Paid advertisements for two mysterious, anonymous sites in particular started to dominate Google searches for dozens of election-related terms in the months leading up to the vote. All linked back to either “The Real Raila”, a virulent attack campaign against presidential hopeful Raila Odinga, or Uhuru for Us, a site showcasing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s accomplishments. As ads for the two sites flooded Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts across the country, Kenyans speculated that British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had fronted them. The company has previously been reported to be working for the President. It was clear that whoever sponsored them had a lot of money to spend.

The two online campaigns were actually created by Harris Media LLC, a far-right American digital media company, on behalf of President Kenyatta’s re-election campaign, Privacy International can reveal. Harris Media are a digital advertising and creative agency for primarily political clients. Harris Media 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.

Harris Media’s Real Raila and Uhuru for Us campaigns relied on ad words in Google search and apparently targeted advertising on a range of social media platforms. 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 rival opposition candidate Raila Odinga’s administration would “remove whole tribes”, for example. It also highlights the risks inherent to voter profiling and micro-targeting in a country with no data protection laws…

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com