School of Social and Political Science

Research project type

Social Media and Security in Africa

Principal investigator

Principal investigator



The challenges with the rapid flow of (mis)information

As more people connect to social media in Africa, their expectations for real-time information are changing, especially in terms of security. This is leading those charged with community safety to alter their ways of interacting with the public, posing new challenges concerning the rapid flow of (mis)information.

At the same time, social media creates opportunities for security sector agencies to engage more directly with the public in providing information, and potentially offers new prospects for improved cooperation in enhancing community safety.

The project examines two variations of insecurity in Africa: sustained threats, and anticipated times of increased insecurity. 

Kenya is the case for sustained insecurity due to recent terrorist attacks and a threat of future attacks.

Sierra Leone and Tanzania are cases in which there is an expected heightened risk of instability due to elections.

Additionally, it examines whether lessons learnt from Kenya's exceptionally high use of social media in a security context could be applied to other countries where social media is in its infancy.


SMS:Africa provides evidence-based research on the role social media can play in shaping relationships between technology, power and the dynamics of democracy.

It maps how both those charged with community safety and non-state actors are using social media in a security context, developing an understanding of how their actions reflect on the nature of ICT and their ability to re-cast power relations, (in)security and democracy in fragile states.

Research staff

Additional information

Edited Volume

Dwyer, M. and Molony, T. 2019 Social Media and Politics in Africa: Democracy, Censorship and Security. London: Zed Books.

Drawing together the work of eighteen scholars based across three continents, this edited volume explores how rapidly growing social media use in Africa is shaping political engagement.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Molony, T. 2019. ‘Social Media warfare and Kenya’s conflict with Al Shabaab in Somalia: A right to know?’ African Affairs 118(471), pp. 328-351.

This article by Thomas Molony examines Kenyan citizens’ right to know details about sensitive security-related information in the context of a new era of social media warfare.

Dwyer, M. 2019. ‘Reimagining Police Engagement? Kenya National Police Service on Social Media.Policing & Society (advanced access), pp. 1-17.

This article by Maggie Dwyer explores the Kenya National Police Service’s use of social media for public engagement in the context of a history of strained police-public relations.

Blog posts and popular media

'Analysis across Africa shows how social media is changing politics' in The Conversation, August 14, 2019 by Maggie Dwyer and Thomas Molony (also posted on Quartz Africa and Democracy in Africa)

'How Sierra Leone policies social media' in Mail & Guardian 28 May 2018 by Maggie Dwyer and project collaborator Jamie Hitchen

'The WhatsApp rumours that infused Sierra Leone’s tight election' in African Arguments, 10 April 2018 by project collaborator Jamie Hitchen

'The Uses and Abuses of Social Media in Africa' in Democracy in Africa, 7 May 2017 by project collaborator Brooks Marmon

International conferences and workshops

The SMS:Africa team has presented findings and organised panels at international conferences including the European Conference on African Studies 2017 (Basel, Switzerland) and the International Studies Association International Conference 2019 (Accra, Ghana).

The project also organised the symposium ‘Social Media in Africa: Beyond the Hashtag’ in April 2017 (Edinburgh, UK).

Please check back for details of upcoming events.