By Oluwaseye Ogunsanya
It’s no longer news that the world we live in is already on a fast paced move. This is inclusive of the news media landscape that has changed dramatically over the past decades. Various digital sources are responsible for these changes and they have brought about a tremendous increase in the reach of journalism, social media, and public engagement.
However the above gains is causing a lot more worries to journalists, policymakers, the government and well meaning citizens due to the misuse of digital platforms by political actors, citizen journalists, as well as the proliferation of talk radio and cable news to misinform or disinform the general public. This term is popularly referred to as “fake news”. This menace is further accelerating and affecting the way individuals interpret daily developments and there has been a precipitous decline in public trust in traditional journalism.
According to an article authored by Darrell M. West on Brookings, fake news and sophisticated disinformation campaigns are especially problematic in democratic systems. The transition from a public democracy to a platform democracy, as noted by Raad voor het Openbaar Bestuur, underscores the shift in the exchange of ideas from traditional media to digital platforms. This change has lowered the threshold for accessing and disseminating information, providing both opportunities for citizen engagement and challenges in combating deliberate misinformation.
Despite these challenges, Nigerian newsrooms are taking proactive steps to combat misinformation and rebuild trust among their audience. Initiatives include capacity-building programs, establishment of fact-checking desks or creating a specialised platform that aims to combat misinformation, collaborative efforts to address misinformation collectively as well as the development of technological tools and products that will aid journalists and fact checkers to do their work.
FactCheckAfrica’s Impactful Strategies
FactCheckAfrica has been and is still largely involved in contributing to the fight against misinformation in Nigeria and the Africa continent in extension. The platform which recently expanded its scope of work from election coverage only to cover 5 thematic areas such as governance, accountability, climate, conflicts and elections has been doing tremendously well in establishing its foot in the Nigeria media ecosystem in the following ways
- Knowledge Product Release: FactCheckAfrica prioritizes evidence-based information dissemination by investing resources in researching prevalent issues related to information disorder in Nigeria and Africa. We’ve published 6 researches with 2 already in the pipeline. Similarly, we are working assiduously on carrying out research on information pollution and violence extremism in West Africa. This will go a long way in providing insights for other fact checking platforms and also help policymakers take informed decisions.
- Dissemination of Fact Checks In Local Languages: FactCheckAfrica is not oblivious of the fact that Nigeria is a multi ethnic and multilingual society, we are also aware that radio broadcasting thrives more in rural areas and hinterlands, it is why we are leveraging on local radio programmes to further spread our checks in the six geo political zones of Nigeria to counter fake news.
- Training of Fact Checkers: The organisation currently boasts of a staff strength of 20 active fact checkers who are specialists in our 5 thematic areas. These individuals who were selected from the six geo political zones of Nigeria got trained both virtually and physically. It is noteworthy to mention that some of these fact checkers have recorded laudable achievements over the years and have represented the organisation at various high level gatherings.
- Capacity Building for Journalists and Student Journalists: As part of our mission to contribute to the fight against misinformation in Nigeria, FactCheckAfrica is going a step further to empower journalists from various news platforms as well as student journalists across selected campuses in the 6 geo political zones in Nigeria with fact checking skills. The theme of the conference which starts in February is ‘Empowering Tomorrow’s Media Leaders’ and the initiative is poised to reshape the narrative of youth engagement in media, elevate standards in fact-checking, and serve as a platform to cultivate a community of fact-checkers who will be trained, mentored, and deployed to share their acquired knowledge, to ensure a more informed society.
- Community Outreach: FactCheckAfrica is committed to ensuring intergenerational awareness as we are aware that this is an aspect that gets little or no attention, it’s why we are planning to do a community outreach with the aim of ensuring that the older generations are carried along and they are educated about misinformation and how to curtail and stop it in their local languages.
- Production of Technological Tools: In order to further enhance our work and aid the general public to inculcate the habit of fact checking, FactCheckAfrica is investing in producing technological tools such as our AI Powered Chatbots. Among other things, this tool has a nice user experience interface, it incorporates French, Swahili and Nigerian local languages to break the language barrier as well as a voice option for fact check.
As FactCheckAfrica continues its mission to combat misinformation, the organization invites local and international organizations from both the private and public sectors to join hands in realizing its vision. Together, these efforts aim to create a more informed society and mitigate the impact of misinformation on public discourse.