Challenges facing social media platforms in conflict prevention in Kenya since 2007: A case of Ushahidi platform

Paper by A.K. Njeru, B. Malakwen and M. Lumala in the International Academic Journal of Social Sciences and Education: “Throughout history information is a key factor in conflict management around the world. The media can play its important role of being the society’s watch dog of the society, by exposing to the masses what is essential but hidden, however the same media may also be used to mobilize masses to violence. Social media can therefore act as a tool for widening the democratic space, but can also lead to destabilization of peace.

The aim of the study was to establish the challenges facing social media platforms in conflict prevention in Kenya since 2007: a case of Ushahidi platform in Kenya. The paradigm that was found suitable for this study is Pragmatism. The study used a mixed approach. In this study, interviews, focus group discussions and content analysis of the Ushahidi platform were chosen as the tools of data collection. In order to bring order, structure and interpretation to the collected data, the researcher systematically organized the data by coding it into categories and constructing matrixes. After classifying the data, the researcher compared and contrasted it to the information retrieved from the literature review.

The study found that One major weak point social media as a tool for conflict prevention is the lack of ethical standards and professionalism for the users. It is too liberal and thus can be used to spread unverified information and distorted facts that might be detrimental to peace building and conflict prevention. This has led to some of the users already questioning the credibility of the information that is circulated through social media. The other weak point about social media as tool for peace building is that it is dependent to a major extent on the access to internet. The availability of internet in low units doesn’t necessarily mean cheap access. So over time the high cost of internet might affect the efficiency of the social media as a tool. The study concluded that information credibility is essential if social media as a tool is to be effective in conflict prevention and peace building.

The nature of social media which allows for anonymity of identity gives room for unverified information to be floated around the social media networks; this can be detrimental to the conflict prevention and peace building initiatives. There is therefore need for information verification and authentication by a trusted agent, to offer information appertaining to violence, conflict prevention and peace building on the social media platforms. The study recommends that Ushahidi platform should be seen as an agent of social change and should discuss the social mobilization which may be able to bring about. The study further suggest that if we can look at Ushahidi platform as a development agent, can we then take this a step further and ask, or try to find, a methodology that looks at the Ushahidi platform as peacemaking agent, or to assist in the maintenance of peace in a post-conflict thereby tapping into Ushahidi platform’s full potential….(More)”.