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The FactChecker

5 mins read A weekly newsletter that takes a closer look at the aspects of truth and falsehood in recent news topics. In an uncertain time, stay informed about the latest news & updates on coronavirus-related developments in Nigeria.

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The thin line between fact and humour: How satire contents mislead online users By Silas Jonathan 

When online  users from all around the world first came across this  headline “Hollywood Actors Pledge Never To Take A Role Where They Have To Pretend To Be Someone Else”. The reactions were diverse comments that neither show doubts towards the headline nor disbelief. “Finally, Hollywood actors will start living the real life and face reality.” A user on Quora shared, amongst   a plethora of other similar comments. 

However, not too long after reading the whole detailed story, some users realised it was nothing close to reality but was  in fact a mere ‘satire’ written to trigger laughter. Realising what it was, another user raised a question: “are all actors not paid to play roles and pretend to be someone else, even receive awards for doing it well?  Isn’t it why they are called ‘actors’ in the first place?” You could see that the questions  triggered an effective change on how others first perceived the story, yet even after  that, others held the story as truth, as actual journalistic reporting. 

Such headlines are not deliberately designed to mislead people, they are in fact under a recognised genre known as ‘Satire’ and it could be considered as a form of art. 

Satire is a genre of literature usually written with humour to ridicule or make fun of vices in the society.  While its genealogy could be traced to drama and acting, satire has transited into a form of media that is published on websites similar to proper news stories. 

Nonetheless, the distinction it shares with a news story is that while the former is based upon actual reality to  inform the society, a satire is deliberately written to provoke the ills in the society with a flair of humour that is  not necessarily based upon actual reality.  So, like the dawn of the new media, satires are now published on websites and  presented in multimedia forms such as cartoons, text, video, and audio to its audiences.

Satire content: a new form of misinformation 

However, in a world where people are  increasingly receiving information via their social feeds, there has been confusion between actual news websites and  satirical websites. Satire news content is now confused with credible news, individuals, governments, politicians, and even mainstream media are fooled by satire, as in some cases is mistaken for actual reality. 

As a result, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in a report  titled: ‘Journalism, Fake news and disinformation’ categorised  satire as a form of misinformation.  According to UNESCO misinformation comprises: 

“Satire and parody, click-bait headlines, and the misleading use of captions, visuals or statistics, as well as the genuine content that is shared out of context, imposter content (when a journalist’s name or a newsroom logo is used by people with no connections to them), and manipulated and fabricated content.”

While this statement might have helped fact-checkers to place satire, it doesn’t solve the problem of people falling victim to its contents or even sharing it as an actual news story.  In a study carried out by The Conversation, (a media research based organization) on over 800 Americans, over 75% of the respondents held satire websites as credible sources. This finding not only paints the relaxed place satire is now quickly taking in journalism; it also raises the question, if satire should be excused at such a time when misinformation is prevalent and daunting.

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Fact Checks of the week

On July 1, 2021, an online news medium on Instagram  instablog9ja posted some pictures of a post by a Twitter user, Sub-pharmacist( @Tobenna__)  on the supposed danger faced by three friends who overdosed on paracetamol…

On Tuesday, 29th June 2021, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, announced the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Malami said Kanu was intercepted through the collaborative efforts of Nigerian Intelligence and Security Services on Sunday 27th June. 

Since the introduction of mobile phones to Nigeria, many people believe that using phones at a filling station can cause explosions. Different messages are churned out year after year about the danger of not switching off your phones at filling stations and reasons why phones should not be used in the kitchen….

Tip of The Week


There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fuelling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.

CLAIM: A website offering double returns for investments – SOURCE: A sponsored page on Facebook 

A sponsored page on Facebook with the name “BBC News Nigeria” is seeking Nigerians’ audience and asking them to invest their money for a double return on their investment. The group, which claimed it was created to provide support “both for the rich and poor” in order to help them “financially” is running its activities with a sponsored Facebook page identified as “BBC News Nigeria.” But how true is this?

Questions to ask yourself: Who is the source? Is the URL secured? Find out what the investment is all about. 

What you should do: Verify before sharing and confirm before investing. 

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Strengthening Investigative Journalism for the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

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