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Five misleading claims recirculated in 2023

One of the top challenges of fact-checking crusaders is the inability of fact-checking reports to go as viral as false information. Actors in the information disorder ecosystem tend to push out unverified claims even after such claims have been fact-checked. 

Annually, DUBAWA takes stock of claims that are recurring, particularly those that have been debunked. Also, we observed some of these claims are usually recirculated via WhatsApp, which is a more enclosed means of communication. A few of them are listed below. 

  1. Viral weather safety tips not from the National Orientation Agency 

During the rainy season in Nigeria, a set of claims are shared widely via social media platforms, supposedly to guide people towards the side of caution during the wet seasons. At the end of the list of claims is a short text ascribing it to the National Orientation Agency (NOA). 

While DUBAWA has observed this trend over the years, we fact-checked the claims in 2023. First, we contacted David Akoji, the Director of the Agency, who debunked the message and said the news was recurring and did not originate from them. 

Out of the four fact-checked claims, one was true, two were misleading, and there was no sufficient evidence to back a fourth claim. The message touched on topics such as not using a mobile phone while it’s raining, staying away from mirrors and glass objects during heavy downpours, switching off your Television (TV) set during heavy downpours and avoiding taking baths when it is raining. Our findings are explained here

  1. Bill Gates’ alleged attempt to “depopulate” Africa: Examining recurring conspiracy theories

Following his 2015 TED talk on a possible pandemic, Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has become a major subject for mis-and dis-information actors, mainly after his speech seemed to have played out as the COVID-19 pandemic five years later. 

A lot of conspiracy theories flooded the Internet about Gates’ alleged attempt to depopulate the world. While many of these theories have been debunked or found to be outrightly fabricated, this year, the claim went viral again on social media with a specific reference to Nigeria. The viral video claimed the Nigerian government had consented to the ‘transhuman and depopulation’ agenda allegedly proposed by the Bill Gates Foundation. Our findings showed that the claims had been debunked, and there is no evidence to support them. 

  1. Is there a sickness common with the AA genotype during harmattan?

Another claim that we observed keeps recurring over the years is that people with the AA genotype are prone to illnesses during the Harmattan season. Some social media users have tagged it “AA sickness” with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, catarrh, headache, and body pains.

Research by the NFC showed that while people with AA genotype are more susceptible to malaria, the concept of ‘AA sickness’ during the Harmattan season was some form of misinformation. 

Experts explained that the symptoms are usually associated with the dryness that occurs in the harmattan season, and this could affect anyone, even those with the AS genotype. 

  1. Is aphelion responsible for changes in Nigeria’s weather conditions?

Another claim that keeps recurring is the claim that aphelion is responsible for changes in weather conditions. The posts, usually recirculated during cold seasons, typically advise readers to prepare for a cooler climate as the earth will move further away from the sun within a particular time frame. DUBAWA observed the date on the post is usually edited to fit the time at which it would be sent. 

The post explained that the aphelion phenomenon causes a 66% difference in the earth’s distance from the sun. However, NASA gave it as 2%. Also, the dates for this year’s aphelion and perihelion occurrence on Astropixels have been given to be January 4 and July 6, respectively.

Also, NASA noted that the distance from the sun doesn’t determine the seasons or weather but rather by the tilt of the earth’s axis of rotation, known as obliquity.

  1. No, masturbation does not lead to baldness in men

A claim that masturbation causes baldness in men has been recurring on social media spaces. Proponents of this theory claim the more a man masturbates, the more the hairline recedes to the back, leaving them with a bald head. 

The claim was shared in 2022 on Twitter and fact-checked here. Despite experts’ opinions and studies showing no correlation between the two, other claims have surfaced this year regarding the subject, as seen here. DUBAWA contributed to tackling this false information and rated the claim as false. 

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