On Thursday evening, September 17, the internet was awash with rumours that former Kenyan TV presenter Esther Arunga would be coming back home, having completed her 10-month parole.
Arunga was sent on parole in July 2019 after she admitted to misleading police in order to help her husband escape punishment over her son's death.
Through a parody account on Twitter, the impersonator led a section of Kenyans to believe that Arunga would be flying back to Kenya after living in Australia for the last eight years.
"Kenyans, forgive me. My parole is over and it's time to come back home. I have suffered enough. No one should ever be ashamed of starting afresh. To everyone who wronged me, I forgive you all. Kindly accept me back," reads the statement on Twitter.Former Kenyan TV presenter Esther Arunga
A statement that has since been retweeted 292 times, garnered 1,300 likes as well as comments from numerous Kenyans, welcoming Arunga back.
Kenyans.co.ke has since established that the account is a parody and the impersonator only joined Twitter in January 2020.
Before the dummy account changed its name to 'Esther Arunga', it was used to impersonate Kiss FM presenter Felix Odiwuor known to many as Jalang'o.
Numerous tweets duplicated those of the radio presenter.
According to Brian Muuo, a digital strategist, twitter has tried to verify popular individuals to get ahead of dummy account users. However, he explains that it might be difficult to spot a fake account if the original one is unverified.
"Dummy twitter accounts mirroring popular people and brands are a global phenomenon. In Kenya they target celebrities and politicians. A fake account usually copies the genuine account's look and feel.
"The people behind them use this tactic to grow the account's followers and then later change the username to sell it or use it for digital marketing," Muuo stated.
The government has moved to fight the propagation of fake news by stipulating stiff penalties for anyone found guilty of the crime.
Earlier in 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta enacted the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill, 2017 providing a two-year jail term or Ksh5 million fine for spreading fake news.
“A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with the intent that the data shall be considered or acted upon as authentic, with or without any financial gain, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both,” reads clause 12 of the new law.President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking during the Kenya Defence Forces Day in 2018File
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