Una Hakika

Defusing the rumour mill, digitally

The text-messaging technology that’s helping quash misinformation and save lives in Kenya.

In southeastern Kenya’s remote Tana River Delta, bad information can be deadly. For six months starting in the summer of 2012, violent clashes between two of the region’s main ethnic groups, Pokomo farmers and Orma herders, killed about 170 people and displaced as many as 40,000.

Much of the violence was driven by rumours, as people heard about attacks or planned attacks and retaliated or launched pre-emptive attacks of their own. But most of the rumours were false or exaggerated, either growing organically from a misunderstanding, or started deliberately to stir up trouble.

So in 2013, with support from the International Development Research Centre, The Sentinel Project, a Toronto-based NGO that works to prevent genocide, began studying how the rumours spread and how to counter them. Read more in Canadian Geographic.