• Fact-checkers accuse YouTube of aiding false information spread, propose four-point solution

    Fact-checkers around the globe have accused video and social media platform, YouTube, of laxity in curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

    The fact-checkers, under the aegis of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), said the platform has lent itself as ‘one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide.’

    In an open letter to YouTube’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Susan Wojcicki, IFCN signatories, Dubawa inclusive, noted that the platform has been exploited by spreaders of false information.

    “As an international network of fact-checking organisations, we monitor how lies spread online and everyday, we see that YouTube is one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide. This is a significant concern among our global fact-checking community, “ the letter reads.

    “What we do not see is much effort by YouTube to implement policies that address the problem. On the contrary, YouTube is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and fundraise themselves. Current measures are proving insufficient” it added.

    Following the spike in the spread of misinformation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms have joined the fight against misinformation. Facebook, which has long been in the fight against misinformation, said in 2021 that it removed about 18 million COVID related misinformation published on its platform. 

    YouTube has also made efforts to curb the spread of misinformation using its 4Rs principles but IFCN still believes this is not enough as conspiracy groups have in the last year been thriving and collaborating on the platform across borders.

    “In the last year we have seen conspiracy groups thriving and collaborating across borders, including an international movement that started in Germany, jumped to Spain and spread through Latin America, all on YouTube. Meanwhile, millions of other users were watching videos in Greek and Arabic that encouraged them to boycott vaccinations or treat their COVID-19 infections with bogus cures. Beyond COVID-19, YouTube videos have been promoting false cures for cancer for years.

    “In Brazil, the platform has been used to amplify hate speech against vulnerable groups, reaching tens of thousands of users. Elections are not safe either. In the Philippines, false content with over 2 million views denying human rights abuses and corruption during the Martial law years are being used to burnish the reputation of the late dictator’s son, one of the candidates in the 2022 elections.  

    “In Taiwan, the last election was marred by unsubstantiated accusations of fraud. The whole world witnessed the consequences of disinformation when a violent mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol last year. From the eve of the U.S. presidential election to the day after, YouTube videos supporting the “fraud” narrative were watched more than 33 million times.”

    The network believes surfacing fact-checked information is more effective than deleting false content as it preserves freedom of expression while acknowledging the need for the spread of the right information. 

    Seeing a large proportion of views on YouTube come from its own recommendation algorithm, IFCN says YouTube should make sure it does not actively promote disinformation to its users or recommend content coming from unreliable channels. 

    IFCN signatories note that YouTube is avoiding the possibility of doing what has been proven to work. 

    “Our experience as fact-checkers together with academic evidence tells us that surfacing fact-checked information is more effective than deleting content. It also preserves freedom of expression while acknowledging the need for additional information to mitigate the risks of harm to life, health, safety and democratic processes”.

    Proposing a 4-point solution, the network wants YouTube to commit to meaningful and transparent  efforts about disinformation on its platform, provide context and offer debunks, act against repeat offenders and extend current and future efforts against disinformation and misinformation in languages other than English. 

    The network seeking collaboration said it is ‘ready and able to help YouTube…to discuss these matters and find ways forward on a collaboration and look forward to your response to this offer’.

  • Did You Know There Are Billions of Social Media Bots Designed to Mimic Humans? Here’s How to Spot Them

    “Bots” — automated social media accounts which pose as real people — have a huge presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They number in the billions. 

    Most fake social media accounts are “bots,” created by automated programs to post certain kinds of information as part of an effort to manipulate social conversations. Sophisticated actors can create millions of accounts using the same program.

    These bots can seriously distort debate, especially when they work together. They can be used to make a phrase or hashtag trend and they can be used to amplify or attack a message or article and even harass other users.

    Recently, social media giant, Facebook, claims it disabled a staggering figure of more than three billion fake accounts over a six-month period. 

    One study by researchers at the University of Southern California analyzed US election-related tweets sent in September and October 2016 and found that 1 in 5 were sent by a bot. The Pew Research Center concluded in a 2018 study that accounts suspected of being bots are responsible for as many as two-thirds of all tweets that link to popular websites.

    In the social media context, these autonomous programs can run accounts to spread content without human involvement. Many are harmless, tweeting out random poems or pet photos. But others are up to no good and are designed to resemble actual users.

    Bots “don’t just manipulate the conversation, they build groups and bridge groups,” said Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Kathleen Carley, who has researched social media bots.

    “They can make people in one group believe they think the same thing as people in another group, and in doing so they build echo chambers.”

    In the run up to the 2023 general election, it has already become incumbent on social media users to acquaint themselves with tips and tricks of social media bots as misinformation and disinformation appear in political ads or social media posts. They can include fake news stories or doctored videos among wider and far reaching public interest implications. 

    Many bots are relatively easy to spot by eyeball, without access to specialized software or commercial analytical tools. This article sets out a dozen of the clues, which can be found useful in exposing fake accounts.

    1. Activity: The most obvious indicator that an account is automated is its activity. This can readily be calculated by looking at its profile page and dividing the number of posts by the number of days it has been active. The benchmark for suspicious activity varies. The Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda team, views an average of more than 50 posts a day as suspicious; this is a widely recognized and applied benchmark, but may be on the low side.
    2. Anonymity: A second key indicator is the degree of anonymity an account shows. In general, the less personal information it gives, the more likely it is to be a bot.
    3. Amplification: The third key indicator is amplification. One main role of bots is to boost the signal from other users by resharing, retweeting, liking or quoting them. The timeline of a typical bot will, therefore, consist of a procession of reshares or retweets and word-for-word quotes of news headlines, with few or no original posts.
    4. Low posts / high results: Bots achieve their effect by the massive amplification of content by a single account. In Twitter for example, they create a large number of accounts which retweet the same post once each: a botnet. Such botnets can quickly be identified when they are used to amplify a single post, if the account which made the post is not normally active.
    5. Common content: The probability that accounts belong to a single network can be confirmed by looking at their posts. If they all post the same content, or type of content, at the same time, they are probably programmed to do so.
    6. The Secret Society of Silhouettes: The most primitive bots are especially easy to identify, because their creators have not bothered to upload an avatar or profile image to them. Some users have silhouettes on their accounts for entirely innocuous reasons; thus the presence of a silhouette account on its own is not an indicator of botness. However, if the list of accounts which retweet, reshare, or like a post looks the same, it’s a red flag. 
    7. Stolen or shared photo: Other bot makers are more meticulous, and try to mask their anonymity by taking photos from other sources. A good test of an account’s veracity is therefore to reverse search its avatar picture. Using Google Chrome, right-click on the image and select “Search Google for Image”. Using other browsers, right-click the image, select “Copy Image Address”, enter the address in a Google search and click “Search by image”. In either case, the search will show up pages with matching images, indicating whether the account is likely to have stolen its avatar:
    8. Commercial content: Advertising, indeed, is a classic indicator of botnets. Some botnets appear to exist primarily for that purpose, only occasionally venturing into politics. When they do, their focus on advertising often betrays them.
    9. Automation software: Another clue to potential automation is the use of URL shorteners. These are primarily used to track traffic on a particular link, but the frequency with which they are used can be an indicator of automation.
    10. Retweets/Reshares and likes: A final indicator that a botnet is at work can be gathered by comparing the retweets and likes of a particular post. Some bots are programmed to both retweet and like the same tweet; in such cases, the number of retweets and likes will be almost identical, and the series of accounts which performed the retweets and likes may also match. 

    Bots are an inevitable part of social media, especially twitter. Some exist for legitimate reasons, others don’t. Notwithstanding, the most common indicators to detect them are activity, anonymity, and amplification, the “Three A’s” of bot identification, but other criteria also exist.

    The researcher produced this media literacy article per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame Kari Kari Fellowship partnership with PRNigeria to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

  • A Biafran embassy commissioned in Spain? Viral video retails misinformation to mislead.

    A YouTube page, Biafran Generation, claims that a ribbon cutting ceremony of the Biafran Embassy in Spain was recently held.

    False, In 2017, this same image and video was used for various other Biafran embassy claims.


    A YouTube page, Biafran Generation, claims that a ribbon cutting ceremony of the Biafran Embassy in Spain was recently held. The narrator, who speaks in Igbo and English, said that  Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the secessionist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, were present at the ribbon cutting. The narrator added that the full video of the ceremony could be found on BJ town crier blog, a Facebook page.

    The YouTube page, Biafran Generation, has 34.2 thousand subscriptions and the video has generated over 20,000 views as of Tuesday, August 25.


    The “BG TOWN CRIER BLOG”, which only exists on Facebook and has a 538 following, has no evidence of ribbon-cutting ceremony in Spain, after a thorough search by this writer.  The page is replete with secessionist propaganda materials and it appears the handlers were merely trying to drive readers to the page.

    The title of the video starts with an obvious error, the misspelling of word launch spelled “lunched”. 

    We uploaded the video to Amnesty YouTube Data Viewer, a video verification tool created by Amnesty International. It extracts metadata and separates it into thumbnails. 

    A metadata is a set of data that gives us more information on any existing data. It is basically data about data while a thumbnail is a small image or video extracted from a larger video or image file. Each thumbnail is authenticated using Reverse Image Search. Applying reverse image search on each frame reveals that it is a collection of random videos and still images. 

    The most prominent image is that of  Friendship Day celebrations, which is superimposed with the image of Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez.

    The reverse image search was applied to another thumbnail and it turned out a 1967 recording by Associated Press (AP) announcing the opening of  Biafra House in New York, which served as a museum of sorts for the display of  Igbo cultural paraphernalia. This video was uploaded to YouTube by the AP on 31July , 2015. The opening of Biafra House was not unusual at the time. During this period, the clearing house for Nigeria/Biafra was located in New York. It was established to provide information and promote civilian relief on the Nigeria/Biafra war.  It was in operation between October 1968 to 1970. 

    The narrator claims to be unable to show actual videos of the opening on youtube but claims an image of hands performing a ribbon cutting as that of Nnamdi Kanu. Actually ,the video is a collage of images  with no real evidence to support the claim.


    The YouTube video claiming a ribbon cutting ceremony of the Biafran Embassy in Spain was recently held is misleading. A review of the video shows that the host page is involved in propagating false information and propaganda.

    The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with NewsWireNGR to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

  • Weekly Newsletter on the Ongoing Infodemic: May 11, 2020

    This is a real-time article, and there are more awe-inspiring projects we forgot to mention. If you want to share a new and different project by your organisation or others, send us a message.

    Fact-checking and Innovation: WhatsApp Chatbots, online archives and more product updates

    Amid this disquietude, the novel coronavirus is teaching us to adapt to our new realities. As dire as the situation is, humans genuinely have the opportunity to think creatively, and to imagine novel solutions to survival threats. One of such threats being the threat to our health, both mentally and physically.

    In this article, we will share 7+ examples of how organisations are thinking outside the box and how you can use this information to stay safe. For ease of reading, the projects will be divided by location, with a bonus section on two tech giants.

    On a global scale

    Starting at the very top, Poynter Institute’s International Fact-checking Network (IFCN) recently launched a WhatsApp chatbot that puts the power of the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance at your fingertips, they said. The CoronaVirusFacts Alliance consists of more than 100 fact-checkers from 70+ countries across 43 languages and 16 time zones. Collectively, the consortium has published 4800+ fact-checks; sharing and translating the facts across their various platforms and on a designated web page.

    It is this information that the chatbot relies upon to bring facts to you via a platform that is fast becoming the epicentre of false news. To use the bot, users can either save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number to their phonebook and text the word “hi.” Alternatively, they can click this link without saving the chatbot’s number.

    Either way, you’ll see options to help you access fact-checks on a specific topic (local or international), learn more about fact-checking networks near you, or learn techniques to protect yourself from misinformation. Check this article for detailed information on how to use it.

    Why it matters to you

    Asides being the best source for answers to your questions about the novel coronavirus, the tool can help you to pre-empt false information before it becomes viral in your region. By randomly – and consistently – looking out for new information via the tool, you can notice patterns as well as identify fake news on other platforms. That way, you will not be too emotionally-riled up to act irrationally! 

    Want to go even further? Spend some time with the database. Also, check out the Twitter list; the content is intriguing.

    Spotlight: Africa

    For the price of one, here are two organisations in Africa that are busy fact-checking viral posts on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other news articles: Dubawa and AfricaCheck

    Dubawa, our project, stayed on course by maintaining an archive of verified information, but also redesigned the webpage to accommodate the volume of coronavirus-related fact-checks. For easier access, you can find such fact-checks in one place.

    On April 20, we also launched a “weekly newsletter on the ongoing infodemic”, distributed in the form of a weekly email and published on the website. The goal is to keep people informed about the latest news & updates on coronavirus-related developments in Nigeria. A typical edition is a mix of a research article; selected fact-checks from the previous week; answers to questions that Nigerians are asking in a Q & A format; our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which we (sadly) couldn’t fact-check, and other insightful tidbits. Until now, the newsletters generally went out fortnightly.

    The project has also entered into partnerships with other organisations including the Coronavirus Alliance (mentioned earlier) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to reach more Nigerians with verified information.

    Health research and data is at the heart of AfricaCheck, which launched a dedicated InfoFinder Covid-19 page in addition to their other pages. InfoFinder is a tool that displays all the facts on a topic (in this case, coronavirus) by region or theme. There’s also a page for “what others have fact-checked” which pools together useful resources from across the world.

    Why it matters to you

    Accurate information never gets old. Online archives will serve various purposes that transcend beyond the coronavirus season: a record of historical events as they happened, a resource base for future research and a go-to platform for acquiring current knowledge.

    Joint fact-checking in Europe 

    “In a crisis, there are two types of people: people who need help, and people who want to help”, says Coral founder, Andrew Losowsky. Sometimes, the people who want to help are a collection of news organisations in South-Eastern Europe who- set aside newsroom rivalry to- jointly promote media accountability, improve media literacy and fight disinformation in the region. 

    Through SEE Check, the coalition will convene a series of webinars to talk about the most popular and harmful disinformation cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. They also analyse trends that indicate the common problems organisations face, necessitating a united cross-border response.

    This initiative is similar to the online media festival hosted by Splice Newsroom, a digital media consultancy based in Singapore. The festival featured a series of 30-minute discussions with newsrooms in Asia and Europe about what they’ve been working on (you can find all those talks on their YouTube channel).

    Why it matters to you

    Many organisations have built their businesses around face-to-face meetings with staff or the general audience. By joining news webinars, you can gain insights on a particular topic and at the same time, learn what it will take to recreate in-person experiences online. 

    If you’re interested in the news industry, check out detailed documentaries on hosting online events by two organisations: Splice Newsroom and

    Text messaging in the US

    Getting fact-checks to more people in real-time is not just a problem of developing countries. In the United States, dozens of news organisations are using GroundSource and Subtext to address reader’s coronavirus questions through text messaging. Over 150,000 people have gotten text updates in recent weeks.

    The use of text messaging in the US is not unprecedented: A recent M+R study noted that audiences for nonprofit text messaging grew by 26% in 2019. That growth came even as Facebook audiences grew by just 4% and email list sizes declined by 2%.

    Both tools provide a platform for two-way communication with people. With built-in analytics, news organisations can monitor and listen to their audience via feed and exportable data. 

    Why it matters to you

    Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is implementing a similar initiative in partnership with telecommunications companies in Nigeria. While watching out for those messages, it is crucial to appreciate the efforts that other key players in the news industry are making to keep you informed. With declining revenue, news organisations are paying high fees for services that bring news to your doorstep. Subscribe to the membership plans of news organisations or donate.

    Product and policy updates by the big techies

    The big technology companies have been rolling out changes to their platforms and doling out millions of dollars to support innovative initiatives that can help protect their audience this season. 

    This month, Facebook announced the first 20 members of an oversight board – “a kind of independent Supreme Court to help the company rule on the deluge of moral, ethical, editorial, and legal challenges it was facing”, says Alan Rusbridger, one of the founding board members. The Board consists of a team of external experts who will moderate online content in light of Facebook’s content policies and freedom of expression. (If you’re interested to know how posts are moderated on the platform, read their policies and community standards)

    In March, Facebook updated its data download tool to offer even more transparency to users in terms of why they’re seeing the ads that are showing up in their feeds. The Facebook-owned instant messaging service, Whatsapp also introduced a new limit on forwarding messages on its app and collaborated with the WHO to launch an information service that reached more than 10 million users within days. 

    The company is also testing other new features to reduce misinformation about the virus on both WhatsApp and Messenger; like one that will enable its users to immediately search for additional context on a message via a Google search prompt in-stream. (Learn more about how Facebook is keeping people safe here and here or here

    Similarly, Google’s Fact Check Explorer tool shows you multiple global fact-checks on the new coronavirus. (You’ll need to sign in via a Google account). This tool is in addition to its efforts aimed at blocking all ads that appear to capitalise on the pandemic while helping the World Health Organization (WHO) and other government authorities run public service announcement ads to educate the general public.

    Apple and Google are also providing additional resources for developers (not users) working with the first version of their Exposure Notification API. The tool will make it easier for public health agencies to track and notify individuals of potential exposure to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

    More updates? The pandemic is also forcing other internet companies like Twitter and Google-owned YouTube to rethink their automated ad rules. YouTube just introduced its fact-check panels to searches in the United States, a feature that is almost identical to Facebook’s overlay feature. (Find out how it looks here. Also, learn more about how Google is keeping people safe here or here

    Since Google recently revamped its ads policy, there’s been a significant decrease in the number of bad ads on the market, according to this report. During the next few months, it may be more important than ever to stay up to date with what’s happening on your primary social media platforms, especially since these new features may be so valuable to your business or for your safety.

    Are you still wondering why it matters to you? Reread the entire article!

    Coronavirus Q & A 

    • Can kids be infected with coronavirus?

    Yes, the coronavirus affects both the young and old; children can contract and spread the virus as much as adults can with no significant gender difference. Therefore, the general hygiene rule also applies to them, especially washing of hands as they tend to play with different objects. (see how to encourage kids to wash their hands). However, they are less susceptible and have a low mortality rate when compared to adults. Check here for symptoms in kids.

    • Can you get coronavirus twice?

    The fact that a patient has been infected and cleared of coronavirus does not rule out the possibility of him getting it again. Believing reports that grants immunity to these set of people are dangerous as the World Health Organization has said that no evidence recovered patients are immune. ‘There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.’ 

    • Can chloroquine be used to cure coronavirus?

    Although health authorities approved chloroquine for Covid-19 clinical trials, there is no evidence to prove that the drug cures coronavirus. Health authorities have not established any drug to give 100 per cent relief of the virus; the World Health Organization has also addressed reports on the drug’s efficacy. Recall, Dubawa once revealed the cases of chloroquine abuse outside and within Nigeria.

    • Is there a coronavirus vaccine in Nigeria?

    NO, there is none. According to PMNEWS, this was confirmed by WHO’s Immunisation Team Lead, Dr Fiona Braka, who emphasised that the World Health Organization has no available vaccines for the control of coronavirus. 

    Tip of the week 

    #FakeNews Alert 

    There have been false attributions of death to COVID-19 in the past. Therefore, one should adequately verify such reports before sharing. Ask yourself, which credible news platform has published this?  

    Picture claims can be misleading; many times, Dubawa has seen a single picture, telling different stories as it appears on various platforms. Get familiar with Google Reverse Images and TinEye; both tools help in identifying the source of an image. 

    Questions to ask yourself: Who is the source? Is he credible? Have credible news platforms reported the news? Has the government addressed the issue? 

    Be careful what you believe on news blogs. Recall, Dubawa checked a similar claim, saying 15 Senators had tested positive for covid-19. However, it was not true; in fact, no senator tested positive. 

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