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Purveyors of Fake News Clamouring for Attention!

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Dubawa has been following the influx of claims surrounding the novel coronavirus… since the first case, we have received a number of falsehoods on the subject. Now, with Nigerian having recorded 1 death from 46 confirmed cases – Lagos 30,  FCT 8, Ogun 3, Bauchi 1, Oyo 1, Ekiti 1, Osun 1 and Edo 1- this infodemic gains traction. 

While we carry out our obligations, we noticed a trend in the way the claims are presented and we thought of addressing it. Many of the misinformation attribute their claims to credible sources. This is as seen here, here and here; the list goes on and on.

This trend has only challenged Fact-checkers to be extra careful and do more research on claim-sources; to check and double-check before concluding.

Case studies: Infodemic on the rise

Exhibit one: This claim dominated social media when it surfaced, its inferences were attributed to the African Independent Television – AIT. The broadcast message had an attached picture of a man (the supposed driver) who allegedly carried Nigeria’s first case of COVID-19 to Ogun State. Adewale Isaac Olorugun, as the driver was referred to, was accused of demanding 100million from the government, barring which he would infect other people with the virus. This post and its claims turned out to be false and did not originate from AIT. The station issued a disclaimer to this effect. Further, the alleged driver released a video, debunking the rumour and stating his name to be Ikuenobi Jude.

Furthermore, another one, that more recently attributed its claims to NCDC – Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. It presented the claims in a way that resembles how the centre communicated this. However, its discrepancies- spelling errors, absence of NCDC logo or watermark sold it out; not to mention, its choice to disseminate its intel via WhatsApp. The falsehood stated that Nigeria had neither a travel ban nor quarantine measures in place for travellers abroad; this wasn’t true.

Yet another one, breaking news from CNN – Sex Kills Coronavirus, Alcohol kills Coronavirus – Dubawa rated both claims false. In this instance, Dubawa surmised the use of a “meme generator” which resembled a news frame.

Reasons behind this trend

While we can’t outrightly state the reason why these fake news perpetrators are shielding themselves with authoritative bodies, logic suggests that they crave prominence and credibility. But, we can’t let them have it; panic is the last thing to be flying about at a time riddled with such uncertainties.

Not to mention, the effects of Donald Trump’s recent proclamation on chloroquine. Indeed, reports show an increase in demand for the anti-malaria drug, leading to health complications and death. We should expect more of this if these perpetrators gain credibility. 

More work for fact-checkers

Now, more than ever, this new development challenges fact-checkers to ace their game. They should do more research on claim sources, are they who they claim to be?

Additionally, scepticism is a tool to deploy when fact-checking; it helps you question the claims further. We will need to ask questions like: “can this source send this kind of message, putting into consideration what he stands to lose?” “Is the account a clone account of the original one?” “Did the latter issue a disclaimer?” “Does the source have a history of sharing fake news?” “Is there a Logo or Watermark affiliating them?”

In essence, it’s an all=hands-on-deck kind of situation…

Lateef Sanni is a graduate of mass communication from Lagos state university. Before joining Dubawa, he belonged to the association of campus journalists where he was trained on the basics of fact-checking, a tool for combating misinformation in Nigeria. He joined the Dubawa team as a researcher and content developer for Dubawa's social media platforms. He consistently works to improve the dissemination of fact-checks through pictures [fact cards] and videos.

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