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Weekly Newsletter: August 17, 2020

By Ebele Oputa, Lateef Sanni

A pause or end to coronavirus-misinformation in Nigeria?

As governments and businesses come to terms with the new reality, coronavirus-related misinformation paved the way for more politically motivated disinformation this month. From subtle claims that indicate an internal power tussle in the country’s ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC), to another false claim that would ordinarily seem ridiculous to an educated Nigerian but still plays into the narrative that in Nigeria anything can happen; even including the rumoured selection of a notorious terrorist as the country’s Vice President!

This nationally accepted culture of “anyhowness”, often used to depict the injudiciousness of the political class, and sometimes of the average Nigerian (depending on the context), means that a picture of a shabby wooden bridge allegedly constructed for N2.3 billion naira by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will go viral. In reality, while the NDDC is being probed for fraud and massive mismanagement of government funds, the bridge in question was actually a self-help project built by the community. 

In a similar vein, Dubawa had to debunk a claim of misinterpreted numbers in relation to NDDC and to another claim by a Twitter user who ‘authoritatively’ made a false statement about the percentage of stamp duty revenues collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (as, it is longer uncommon for Twitter users to present baseless opinions as facts).

Should false photos ever be permitted? 

In the wake of the recurring violence in Southern Kaduna, photos emerged to create mental images of the havoc caused by ethnic and religious killings that have been left to foster by the government. Some of these photos were verified by our researchers and found to be false. The digital tool, Wayback Machine, shows that two of the photos randomly selected had nothing to do with the killings in Southern Kaduna, while the third has been in online circulation as far back as 2014.

But the questions to ponder are – should unwitting netizens be given a free pass to post wrong accompanying photos that, according to them, are visual representations of their feelings? Will attaching a false rating to such posts by fact checkers reduce the severity of the claims or social issues? How can a fact checker determine intent, that is, if a wrong accompanying photo was attached deliberately or indeliberately? 

Prima facie, the answer to the last question seems the easiest. A trends analysis of a social media account can provide enough information to reveal insights about the owner’s personality, political leanings, or even predict future behavior. Yet, humans are known to make mistakes or begin new paths, like promoting a different political narrative for financial gains.

While it is difficult to provide answers to these questions, it is for this reason that personal responsibility and context matter.  Every internet user is indebted to the online community and must act as he/she would if there were strict due diligence laws; just as much as fact-checkers must provide clarity behind ratings so as not to fall prey to the very mechanisms of confusion exercised by misinformers!

Fact checks of the week

Did Jonathan Collect Loan From China for Abuja-Kaduna Railway Project? – In the din over Nigeria’s compounding debt profile towards China, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, claimed, on Channels TV, that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan collected loans from China

EXPLAINER: Five reasons you should be involved in your children’s media consumption and how – It is almost impossible for parents to completely monitor their children over the media they consume in the new media age. However, parents can guide their children by mediating…

Residents protesting Southern Kaduna killings [Source: The Nation]

How Rogue Photography is Used to Keep Southern Kaduna Tragedy Alive – A Twitter user, Samson Adeyemi, recently posted four pictures purportedly depicting the victims of the latest attacks in Southern Kaduna and their aggressors

Coronavirus Q & A

  • What is the Update on Vaccines?

As of August 16th, the New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker has it that two vaccines have been approved (Note:  on the tracker, approval means regulators in each country review the trial results and decide whether to approve the vaccine or not). One from a Chinese company CanSino Biologics, approved for limited use and the other from the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health, approved for early use. (continue reading)

  • What are the processes involved in producing a vaccine?

According to the  Centre for Disease Control and Prevention vaccines go through six stages before approval. These stages are the exploratory stage, pre-clinical stage, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, manufacturing, and Quality control. Clinical development is a three-phase process. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and the vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety.

  • Is the Russian Vaccine Safe?

Since Vladamir Putin, Russia President announced the approval of a COVID-19 Vaccine – Sputnik V – manufactured in Russia, there has been an influx of questions in respect to its potency and safety but there’s not a specific answer. Although Mr Putin has gushed about its efficacy, health experts are not convinced that the product is effective. (Continue reading)The vaccine, reportedly, has passed through first and second clinical trials but yet to conclude the third phase. A report by CNN states, “Scientists conducted months of human trials but are yet to publish data and did not begin the crucial Phase 3 stage, which usually precedes approval, before the announcement (of the vaccine) on Tuesday.” 

What can you do?

Be alert, share our tips and don’t share false news! 

Tip of the week

New Deadly Virus Surfaces In China – SOURCE: OnlineBlog (TheElitesNG)

Be sure to confirm this information from credible news websites before sharing with relatives or friends.  

Makinde sacks works commissioner who spent 55 days treating COVID-19 – SOURCE: OnlineBlog (NewMail)

Questions to ask yourself: Who is your source’s source?  Which other platform has published this?

DSTV Moves Nigeria’s NTA to Channel 419, What a Sad Coincidence – SOURCE: OnlineBlog (DocpetInfo)

Verify the content of this news report; be sure it is not satire, misconstrued or a clickbait. Check other news platform or search your decoder to confirm the report.

BREAKING: Universities, Poly and Others to Resume September as Post-UTME Kicks Off (MOST READ) – SOURCE: Facebook Claim (MySchoolNews)

Be sceptical while approaching any Breaking News especially when it is published by a random page. Get more information from credible websites, in this context, the Ministry of Education would be the right source.

Other Fact-checks 

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