The former president’s daughter used X to bomb South Africa with conspiracy theories

On March 9, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, daughter of former South African president Jacob Zuma, tweeted a video that purports to show former US president Donald Trump encouraging “all South Africans to vote for uMkhonto WeSizwe,” her father’s party, in the country’s May 29 election. In another post, just days before the election, Zuma-Sambudla, who has more than 300,000 followers, shared videos and photos of what appeared to be paper ballots. The accompanying document accused the African National Congress (ANC), the party currently leading the government, of stealing votes. that post has been viewed nearly 650,000 times.

Experts who spoke to WIRED say that X, formerly Twitter, was the source of election-related misinformation and disinformation ahead of the vote, which deals a major blow to the ANC. And Zuma-Sambudla is a super-spreader.

“We have seen clear campaigns aimed at weakening [election commission],” said William Bird, director of the Media Monitoring Authority Africa (MMA), a media and human rights watchdog. “It was driven in no small part by [Jacob] Zuma’s daughter.”

In the days after the election, Zuma-Sambudla moved on implying that the election was rigged beneficial to the ANC, even though the party has long lost its parliamentary majority. Bird sees Zuma-Sambudla and her massive platform on X as a symptom of a larger problem—no one at the company can restrict content that undermines confidence in the election or threatens violence. election-related forces.

“When Elon took over, he completely threw everything away,” Bird said. As part of its work, MMA runs a platform called Real411 in collaboration with the South African electoral commission, known as the IEC. The platform allows South Africans to regularly report instances of misinformation and disinformation surrounding the election. MMA can then flag these pieces of content to Meta, TikTok, and Google, all of them work with the IEC to protect elections. X, according to Bird, “did not want to participate” in conversations to help shape it Digital and social media principles for elections on the continent in 2024 and 2025.

“It’s not just a small country, South Africa,” Bird said. “That’s an entire continent they refuse to engage.”

Following the insurrection in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, the company then known as Twitter increased its team of trust and safety employees—those who prevent hate speech, inform disinformation and illegal content off the platform—around elections, to ensure that the platform cannot be used to incite civil unrest. In the lead-in of US midterm elections and Brazilian presidential election in 2022, the company is especially vigilant against misinformation and disinformation that questions the election process or the validity of election results. (Brazil, like America, also saw an uprising in the months following the loss of president Jair Bolsonaro). However, after Elon Musk took over the company, he fired most of the people who worked based on trust and safety. As part of this, Twitter Africa’s entire staff was made redundant.


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