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HomeAfricaUnveiling Active Disinformation in Africa: Actors, Objectives, and Consequences on the Continent's...

Unveiling Active Disinformation in Africa: Actors, Objectives, and Consequences on the Continent’s Stability

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Africa, as a continent experiencing rapid political, economic, and social development, has become a fertile ground for the spread of disinformation. According to experts, disinformation encompasses a set of communication practices and techniques aimed at negatively influencing public opinion, communities, and nations. It involves the deliberate dissemination of false or biased information with the intent to harm.

Actors of Disinformation in Africa

Disinformation in Africa is orchestrated by a variety of actors, ranging from state entities to militant groups and private entities. Authoritarian regimes often employ disinformation to bolster their power by manipulating public opinion and undermining the credibility of independent media. Militant groups also seek to exploit disinformation to stir tensions and fuel conflicts. A study by the Centre for Strategic Studies of Africa, published on May 13, 2022, identifies Russia as the primary source of disinformation campaigns in Africa, with at least 16 known operations on the continent. The study suggests that Russia leverages a heritage dating back to Joseph Stalin (dezinformatsyia), adapting targeted disinformation tactics from the Russian military strategy of “ambiguous warfare.” This strategy amplifies grievances, intensifies divisions within targeted societies, fostering fragmentation, and inaction while providing plausible deniability to the perpetrators. The overarching goal is often to convince citizens by creating false equivalences between democratic and non-democratic political actors, creating an atmosphere of disillusionment and apathy.

Additionally, certain private interests, including businesses and individuals, also exploit disinformation in Africa for economic or political gains. Disinformation is used to discredit competitors, influence markets, or divert public attention from real issues. Some African governments resort to information manipulation to influence public attitudes and suppress the political participation or expression of certain individuals, such as activists, journalists, or political opponents. In some cases, governments may even resort to overt and covert information manipulation, including censorship, to achieve political goals, including human rights repression.

Objectives of Disinformation

The objectives of disinformation in Africa are diverse, encompassing the manipulation of elections, destabilization of governments, and disruption of democratic processes. For instance, in 2016, Gabon set a disinformation record in Africa, facilitated by high internet penetration rates, social media, and the emergence of “deepfakes.” According to Didier Simba, President of the Club of Information Security Experts in Africa (CESIA), deepfakes allow cybercriminals to alter audio or video files using artificial intelligence to transform, for example, a speech. Actors often aim to influence public opinion in favor of their own interests, whether political, economic, or geopolitical. False information is frequently employed to manipulate the public, with Russian news sites RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik, according to France Info, disseminating misleading information glorifying Russia and European far-right parties. They amplify issues that Moscow perceives as French discomfort: identity crisis, refugees, immigration, and social fracture, or defend the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Conclusion

The prevalence of active disinformation in Africa poses significant challenges to the stability of the continent. As actors employ sophisticated tactics to manipulate public perception, it becomes imperative for governments, media organizations, and the public to enhance their information literacy and critical thinking skills. Understanding the motives and methods of disinformation is crucial in crafting effective counter-strategies to mitigate its impact on political, economic, and social landscapes.

Ouaissou DEMBELE
Ouaissou DEMBELEhttps://cybercory.com
Ouaissou DEMBELE is an accomplished cybersecurity professional and the Editor-In-Chief of cybercory.com. He has over 10 years of experience in the field, with a particular focus on Ethical Hacking, Data Security & GRC. Currently, Ouaissou serves as the Co-founder & Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Saintynet, a leading provider of IT solutions and services. In this role, he is responsible for managing the company's cybersecurity strategy, ensuring compliance with relevant regulations, and identifying and mitigating potential threats, as well as helping the company customers for better & long term cybersecurity strategy. Prior to his work at Saintynet, Ouaissou held various positions in the IT industry, including as a consultant. He has also served as a speaker and trainer at industry conferences and events, sharing his expertise and insights with fellow professionals. Ouaissou holds a number of certifications in cybersecurity, including the Cisco Certified Network Professional - Security (CCNP Security) and the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), ITIL. With his wealth of experience and knowledge, Ouaissou is a valuable member of the cybercory team and a trusted advisor to clients seeking to enhance their cybersecurity posture.

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