By Raheemat Adeniran
The advent of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, brought with it an unprecedented era of information disorder. From conspiracy theories regarding the origin of the coronavirus to several unfounded and unverified myths regarding treatment options and preventive practices, the world witnessed an enormous flood of misinformation, making it impossible for many to understand what is real and what is not. The information disorder is being spread by people across various demographics from world leaders, to religious leaders, traditional leaders, key government functionaries, and private citizens.
Information disorder around the pandemic is well-established, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) describing the situation as an infodemic, “an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” Over 100 fact-checkers around the globe under the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance have been at the forefront of countering this misinformation, often creating a reference link for all covid-19 related fact-checks on their websites. As at 30th September, 2020, they have collectively published over 7,000 fact-checks in more than 70 countries in over 40 different languages.
Several social media platforms rose to the challenge, devising various means to track and dispel misinformation around the pandemic. Facebook, for instance, has a partnership with several fact-checking organisations to combat the spread of the pandemic. This is in addition to its policy of keeping its subscribers updated on fact-checks on information they have previously shared. Oftentimes, several posts are taken down and blocked from spreading further. Global and local health agencies such as the WHO and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are exploring online and other social media platforms to provide “evidenced-based information” to the general public. They are also collaborating with fact-checkers to debunk false claims and curb the spread of misinformation around the pandemic.
In this analysis, we examine fact-checks on two leading fact-checking organisations in Nigeria, Dubawa and Africa Check. The NCDC is in partnership with the two organisations to continuously track and promptly debunk “coronavirus-related misinformation, disinformation and mal-information to limit the spread “of false information around coronavirus in Nigeria”. The essence was to examine the nature of COVID-19 misinformation popularly spread among Nigerians.
We employed a content analysis research method to conduct the study, using a pre-established coding guide to gather required data. We explored the Dubawa and Africa Check websites for coronavirus-related fact-checks, with both having dedicated sections for coronavirus fact-checks on their respective pages.
From the coronavirus page on Dubawa, we extracted all 99 stories published on its page. Of these, 3 articles unrelated to the pandemic were eliminated from the study. General covid-19 misinformation media literacy articles and Dubawa’s bi-monthly newsletters were delisted to limit our analysis to core fact-checks. We also eliminated stories making reference to other African countries to limit the analysis only to fact-checks with specific reference to Nigeria and general COVID-19 misinformation which may likely trend locally. In all, we analysed 64 core covid-19-related fact-checks on Dubawa.
Africa Check also has a dedicated coronavirus page. It grouped its fact-checks into six categories with the number of fact-checks in each group indicated in a bracket. The six categories are: Cures and prevention (49), Hoaxes, half-truths and scams (88), Manipulated or out of context videos, images and articles (76), Conspiracy theories, origins and predictions (10), The odd and the bizarre (10), Things that are actually true (but you thought they weren’t) (35). The page also included two other links – Audio and podcasts (31), On Air: Webinars & media appearances by our staff (23) – for other related contents. A total of 268 (49 + 88 + 76 + 10 +10 + 35 = 268) fact-checks are available across the 6 categories. We examined all 268 fact-checks and eliminated stories focusing on other Africa countries. All stories making reference to virality of contents, or mentioning officials in specific African countries than Nigeria were delisted and excluded from analysis. Fact-Checks on Madagascar were however included in the study owing to the popularity of its highly promoted covid herbal mixture. In all, 139 fact-checks were analysed on Africa Check for this analysis…Read more
Fact checks of the week
Some social media users are circulating a video of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, wherein he purportedly accused operatives of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of perpetrating crime in Nigeria, thereby suggesting the Governor’s support for the nationwide #EndSARS protest.
CLAIM: Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari claimed on twitter that fuel was sold at N600 per litre on Easter Sunday in 2013. No Evidence: There is no evidence to show that fuel was…
A viral WhatsApp message claims nobody is President-elect in the United State until the safe harbour period (between November 3 and December 8) is over.
Mostly True. While it is true there is a safe harbour deadline and other timelines before the swearing-in of the president, the use of the term President-elect is not forbidden and has…
Coronavirus Q & A
- Is there a widely approved vaccine for COVID-19?
According to WHO, there is not yet an approved vaccine. Many potential vaccines for COVID-19 are being studied, and several large clinical trials may report results later this year. If a vaccine is proven safe and effective, it must be approved by national regulators, manufactured to exacting standards, and distributed. WHO is working with partners around the world to help coordinate key steps in this process. Once a safe and effective vaccine is available, WHO will work to facilitate equitable access for the billions of people who will need it. More information about COVID-19 vaccine development is available here.
- How effective and safe will the COVID-19 vaccine be?
WHO is cautiously optimistic that safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 will be successfully developed. There is a robust pipeline of potential vaccines in development, and some have already advanced to large (phase III) clinical trials based on promising early data. But for now, we can’t be certain if or when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available. That is why we must not rely on a future vaccine to fight this pandemic – we must use all the tools we already have at our disposal, such as testing, contact tracing, physical distancing, and the use of masks.
More information about COVID-19 vaccine development is available here.
What can you do?
Be alert, share our tips, and don’t share information you are not sure of!
Coronavirus infection count
Note: Total cases may be more than officially stated owing to the inability to include unconfirmed cases. Stay safe!
Tip of the week
Beware! Viral WhatsApp message claiming that MTN is offering N15000 as customer reward is a hoax. Disregard the message and the link, as it may be a phishing site for scammers. Nonetheless, MTN has already tagged the information as false. The message reads:
Check if Your number has been chosen by MTN to receive ₦15000 As Party of customer REWARD Program For Who have been using MTN for more than three months MTN USERS ONLY
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- U.S. election: How true is claim that Biden is not yet president-elect?