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Challenges and Considerations in Countering Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviours in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Challenges and Considerations in Countering Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviours in the Democratic Republic of Congo
17th October 2023 Narcisse Mbunzama
In Insights


In recent years, the proliferation of coordinated inauthentic behaviours on social networks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has emerged as a significant driver of political instability, dis/misinformation, and various forms of violence in the nation. Countering these coordinated inauthentic behaviours in the DRC requires a nuanced and adaptive approach that accounts for the region’s unique circumstances, involves local communities, builds trust, and leverages both digital and offline strategies to foster peace and mitigate conflicts. Building on the analysis of these online activities outlined in a previous Insight, this piece suggests several non-exhaustive lists of potential challenges and considerations that need to be taken into consideration when developing interventions specifically tailored to the DRC context. 

The Complex Socio-Political Landscape

The eastern part of the DRC is characterised by a complex set of challenges that stem from historical conflicts, ethnic tensions, and governance issues. These complexities can significantly complicate efforts to address coordinated inauthentic behaviours, including the spread of misinformation and disinformation. 

Historical Conflicts

The eastern DRC has a history of conflicts with deep-rooted causes related to disputes over land, resources, and political power. These conflicts have created a backdrop of mistrust and animosity among various communities, making it challenging to build consensus and cooperative efforts to counter coordinated inauthentic behaviours. Past grievances can be exploited through misinformation campaigns, further deepening divisions and suspicions.

Ethnic Tensions

The region is home to a diverse range of ethnic groups, each with its own cultural and historical identity. Ethnic tensions and competition for resources have at times led to violence and insecurity. Coordinated inauthentic behaviours can exploit these tensions by spreading misinformation that targets specific ethnic groups, fueling distrust and further aggravating existing conflicts.

Governance Issues

Weak governance, corruption, and inadequate provision of public services are prevalent challenges in the eastern DRC. In such an environment, official sources of information might not be widely trusted. Coordinated inauthentic behaviours can exploit this lack of trust by disseminating misinformation that resonates with local grievances and suspicions, leading to further confusion and frustration among the public.

Displacement and Instability

Ongoing conflicts have resulted in large-scale displacement of populations. Displaced communities are often more vulnerable to manipulation through misinformation, as they might lack access to reliable information sources and be more susceptible to false narratives.

Limited Rule of Law

The presence of armed groups and the absence of effective law enforcement can create an environment where disinformation can spread unchecked. These groups might use misinformation to further their interests or to undermine efforts by official institutions to counter their influence.

Fragmented Media Landscape

The media landscape in the DRC is characterised by fragmentation and diverse interests among various influential actors. Government-owned media outlets often serve as platforms for government narratives and biases, while private media organisations exhibit a wide range of editorial stances, including alignment with political or business interests. Local and regional media outlets prioritise their agendas, and international media agencies may not always prioritise local nuances in their coverage. The rise of social and digital media platforms has amplified the spread of information, including misinformation and extremist narratives, contributing to further fragmentation.

In addition to government and private media, civil society organisations, NGOs, political parties, and community and ethnic associations all operate their own media initiatives, each with distinct missions and focuses. Foreign interests, such as governments and organisations, also play a role in influencing the DRC’s media landscape. This complex ecosystem makes it challenging to establish a unified response to misinformation and extremism. Moreover, a lack of media literacy and limited access to diverse sources of information among the population exacerbates the impact of coordinated deceptive practices, underscoring the need to address these challenges to promote a more informed and united society in the DRC.

Limited Access to Information

Poor infrastructure and low digital penetration might limit the effectiveness of online strategies in reaching affected populations. Despite rising levels of Internet access in certain regions, there remains a significant digital divide in the DRC. This discrepancy in Internet access can result from limited infrastructure, high costs of services, geographical remoteness, and low levels of digital literacy and awareness. This digital divide can have significant repercussions on efforts to counter coordinated inauthentic behaviours, combat misinformation, and promote peace and inclusion. Populations without Internet access may be less informed about how to distinguish between real and false information circulating online. This can also limit the reach of awareness campaigns and educational initiatives aimed at preventing the spread of misinformation and extremism.

The proliferation of fake news and rumours in the DRC is not confined to digital platforms but extends into oral tradition, which serves as a crucial source of information for many residents. This phenomenon presents a significant challenge for individuals who rarely or never access the internet, as they struggle to ascertain the veracity of the information they receive. Consequently, addressing the issue of fake news demands a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond digital spaces, acknowledging the importance of countering misinformation in both the online and offline spheres.

The Linguistic and Cultural Diversity

The linguistic diversity in the DRC requires tailored approaches to effectively combat misinformation and disinformation. Addressing linguistic and cultural diversity is pivotal for any strategy aimed at countering coordinated inauthentic behaviours. It requires an understanding of local contexts, strong collaboration with community stakeholders, and the ability to communicate in ways that resonate with the diverse population. By acknowledging and embracing this diversity, efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation can be more inclusive and impactful.

Some elements can be considered to analyse how diversity impacts the efforts to address coordinated inauthentic behaviours:

Language Barriers

The eastern DRC is home to 242 languages spoken by different ethnic groups. Misinformation and disinformation can spread more effectively in local languages, as they resonate better with the targeted communities. This necessitates the need for accurate information to be disseminated in these languages to counter false narratives effectively.

Cultural Nuances

Different cultural norms, values, and beliefs can affect how information is received and interpreted. Misinformation might exploit cultural sensitivities to provoke emotional responses, which can fuel conflicts and tensions. Tailored approaches are required to address these sensitivities and avoid inadvertently worsening the situation. Engaging with local communities to understand their specific cultural contexts is also essential for building trust and credibility. Culturally appropriate messages are more likely to be accepted and shared within communities.

Effective Communication

Strategies to counter misinformation must consider the local communication preferences and mediums that are most commonly used and trusted by the diverse population. This might involve leveraging traditional communication channels such as oral tradition, television and newspapers that often enjoy greater trust among the people in the region compared to social media networks.

Building Local Partnerships

Collaborating with local leaders, influencers and organisations can facilitate reaching different linguistic and cultural groups effectively. These local partners can help tailor messages and strategies to resonate with specific audiences.

The Armed Group Influence

Armed groups might exploit misinformation campaigns to further their agendas, making it difficult to discern between authentic and inauthentic content. Addressing armed group influence in misinformation campaigns in the DRC requires a comprehensive understanding of local conflict dynamics, communication strategies, and the motivations of these groups. Strategies to counter coordinated inauthentic behaviours should consider the potential involvement of armed groups and aim to empower local communities with accurate information, critical thinking skills, and the ability to discern between legitimate and manipulated content. Similarly, those working to counter these threats could face security risks from these armed groups or those who directly benefit from conflicts. It’s a complex challenge that requires collaboration across various sectors and constant adaptation to evolving tactics.

Offline Misinformation

Disinformation isn’t limited to online platforms; rumours and false information can also spread through traditional communication channels such as community radios, oral tradition, newspapers or local TVs, etc. Tackling offline misinformation requires strategies that respect local users and communication norms; this might involve working closely with community leaders, local media, and traditional communication channels to disseminate accurate information. 

In the eastern region of the DRC, fact-checking workshops are arranged by organisations like Congo Check. These workshops and training sessions target journalists, community leaders, and educators, equipping them with effective fact-checking techniques to combat offline misinformation. This approach focuses on building local capacity to discern and correct false information.

Furthermore, traditional Media Partnerships are vital in countering offline misinformation. Collaborative efforts between newspapers, radio stations, and television networks in the eastern DRC and fact-checking organisations have been instrumental in verifying and rectifying false information. By working together, they contribute to the dissemination of accurate information and help counter the spread of misinformation offline. 

Social Trust

Information shared within close-knit communities is often trusted more than information from unknown sources. Misinformation originating from known individuals or local leaders can be influential, even if it’s not factually accurate. Equally, deep-rooted mistrust of governments and authorities might also undermine efforts to disseminate accurate information. 


Coordinated inauthentic behaviours on social networks are drivers of hate, misinformation, disinformation, and violence in the DRC. Addressing these challenges of coordinated inauthentic behaviours is crucial for inducing peace and inclusion. Combating these coordinated inauthentic behaviours through digital literacy, tech company collaboration, community engagement, and positive narratives can reshape the information landscape and contribute to a more peaceful and inclusive society in the region. Further research could delve into the psychological and sociological aspects of how coordinated inauthentic behaviours influence individual behaviours and attitudes, as well as explore the potential role of international organisations in supporting local initiatives for conflict resolution and digital literacy. 

Narcisse Mbunzama holds a background in computer science and is the founder of Digital Security Group, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), conducting research in areas such as disinformation, artificial intelligence/machine learning, and cybersecurity.