Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
A ground-breaking IWPR project to fight fake news in Africa will combine crowdsourced investigation and online courses to equip citizens with the tools they need to combat disinformation.
FakeWatch Africa - fakewatch.africa, which launched on July 18, will serve as a clearinghouse for information about fake news and also showcase the work of two partner organisations, Africa Uncensored and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
Fake news currently circulating around Covid-19 range from claims that drinking alcohol, eating raw onions, or getting a tattoo will prevent or cure coronavirus, to scare-mongering warnings not to get a possible future vaccine.
“Although fake news long predates the Covid-19 pandemic – it has been around all our lives in one form or another – this acute global health crisis, combined with the growing ease with which misinformation can be spread, has only raised the stakes for us all,” said Andres Ilves, FakeWatch Africa consultant. “Never has it been easier to spread fake news – and rarely, if ever, have the stakes been higher.”
FakeWatch features an editorial section probing the authenticity of current news stories, while FakeCheck Africa - modelled on Cofacts, a crowdsourced fact-checking site - will enable anyone to submit a suspect article or document for investigation by volunteers.
Another section will be dedicated to the FakeWatch Academy, where journalists and news consumers can learn how to do their own fact checking. This incorporates a multimedia school where users can progress through nine lessons to learn the skills needed to identify and combat fake news. Resources include dozens of sites for users to conduct their own independent investigations.
FakeWatch Africa also features a Swahili-language section, in which highlights of the FakeWatch Academy have been translated for the over 100 million speakers of one of the continent’s lingua francas.
Once launched, the site will be updated as the partner organisations produce more fact checking reports, while additional training content will also be added to the FakeWatch Academy.
“Disinformation, misinformation, and fake news are among the greatest dangers of our times,” said Emmanuel Chenze, the data and fact-checking editor at Africa Uncensored. “These lies can blame innocent people, sow discord where there is none, and promote false medical ‘cures’ that are life-threatening. The potential damage to our lives is as extensive as the list of social media pages and websites available on the Internet, of messenger apps on our phones – and of the countless people who use these platforms to spread untruth, whether innocently or on purpose.”
FakeWatch Africa is part of IWPR’s existing Voices for Change project in Kenya and Nigeria, which has been focussing on bringing media outlets and civil society organisations together to defend human rights and social justice.
As coronavirus sweeps the globe, IWPR’s network of local reporters, activists and analysts are examining the economic, social and political impact of this era-defining pandemic.