The growing sophistication of Russia’s disinformation campaigns in Africa demand greater vigilance from tech companies, internet watchdog groups, and governments.
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Disinformation campaigns are popular among states accused of human rights violations and war crimes. None is more popular than the Russian template: a two-pronged approach that attacks the credibility of reporters of abuses as well as sows confusion about the reality of the abuse itself, thereby denying the possibility for any serious accounting. And yet, tech-enabled citizens can set the record straight. The collection of evidence—pictures, recordings, texts—can be crowd-sourced with the ubiquitous mobile phone. Combined with satellite imagery and international fact-finding missions, this evidence becomes irrefutable and can force accountability on states.
African elections in 2020 will be a test against efforts to erode presidential term limits and other democratic checks and balances, with direct consequences for stability on the continent.