Kenya Broadcasting Corporation: “The SMS Network is Still a Dangerous Noise-Machine!”

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Was the taxpayer-funded gazillion-jigawatt megaphone fair® and balanced®? “Balance and access” in KBC election coverage on the state-owned boob tube — a BBC 2.0 “content alliance.” From right to left: PNU (Kibaki), ODM (Odinga) … Source: EU EOM Kenya 2007.

The government spokesman said those who forwarded the messages were equally culpable and will be held accountable.

buzz noun a confusion of activity and gossip

Main Entry: 2buzz
Function: noun
1 : a persistent vibratory sound
2 a : a confused murmur b : RUMOR, GOSSIP c : a flurry of activity d : FAD, CRAZE e : speculative or excited talk or attention relating especially to a new or forthcoming product or event <one of the few new shows that’s getting good buzzTV Guide>; also : an instance of such talk or attention <their first CD created a huge buzz>
3 : a signal conveyed by buzzer; specifically : a telephone call
4 : HIGH 4

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation weighs in with a follow-up to

The government has dispelled rumors circulating through Short Message Services (SMS) stating that water in Nairobi and other parts of the country has been poisoned.

Has it dispelled rumors that no such rumors, or very few such rumors, are actually circulating and being believed?

David “Fear and Misinformation Abound” Sasaki-style fear and misinformation abound!

On debunking hyped rumors of biohazard as a potential form of “moral panic over phantom menaces,” see also

File under “reasons to stop taking advice on Journalism 2.0 from Jeff ‘Buzzmachine’ Jarvis.”

Here is what I think would be a challenging and interesting citizen journalism DYI fact-check on this story:

  1. Confirm the existence of such rumors;
  2. If they exist, try to measure the extent of their dissemination and influence; and
  3. If they exist, try to trace them to their origins.

For some general tips on how a Mexican newspaper accomplished this, see

Try to rule the following proposition in or out:

The credibility-challenged de facto Kenyan government is engaged in “the commedia dell’arte of due diligence.”

Show your work. If I were advising the Kenya coup on its PR, I would have come prepared with PowerPoint slides showing messages of this nature, drawn from cell phone screenshots.

Government Spokesperson Dr. Alfred Mutua warned those who were propagating the lies through their cell phones that the government was in the process of tracking the source of the messages and that in due course they will be arrested and prosecuted.

“There is a dangerous rumor circulating …”

“There is a dangerous, unfounded rumor spreading that water in Nairobi and other towns is tainted. This rumor is false and has no basis as there is nothing wrong with our water,” Mutua said.

Ignore the SMS network: It lies.

He asked Kenyans to ignore such messages and avoid forwarding the same to other people before verifying the content.

Those found forwarding rumors will be shot.

He said those who forwarded the messages were equally culpable and will be held accountable.

A policy similar to the provisions of Brazil’s dictatorship era Press Law. Diogo Mainardi would be rotting in prison without habeas corpus or “habeas content” rights if he were Kenyan, apparently.

Diogo Mainardi (Veja magazine) plugs a book on Globo’s Jô: “Freedom of expression is a tautology.”

Look for the Kenyan government to acquire further communications-blocking capabilities, after already having banned live TV broadcasts?

“We should not pay attention to rumors especially by SMS. They are false and meant to create disharmony and a state of helplessness,” he added.

Why are SMS rumors any more pernicious — as to their truth-value or lack thereof — than rumors spread by analog means (my mouth to the ear of the guy behind me in the line to buy cabbages, or vice versa)?

Mutua who was speaking at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) Friday during a press briefing also commended the people of Kenya for stopping the violence and embracing peace in various parts of the country.


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