As part of efforts to combat misinformation in Africa, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR) on Friday officially launched the FactCheckHub – an independent, fact-checking hub.
A statement by the Executive Director of the centre, Dayo Aiyetan, said the FactCheckHub was set up with the aim of combating misinformation, disinformation, hoaxes, and rumours about topical issues including COVID-19, elections, health, and governance, among others.
Aiyetan said, “The first idea about setting up a fact-check operation occurred to us shortly in 2018 before Nigeria’s general election, because there was a lot of misinformation generated.
“And we got involved in the process that led to the formation of CrosscheckNigeria, which brought together several newsrooms to work on fighting misinformation, particularly regarding the election.
“I said then that misinformation will not end after the election, and it has not.
“And it looks like every cycle around our life, our activities, we throw up all kinds of misinformation, whether it’s election, pandemic, like the Coronavirus has done.
“Whether it’s about a natural disaster, an attack, whether it’s about our security situation, economic situation, or about corruption.
“People will always cook up something, particularly now that governments are known to spread misinformation.
“Powerful politicians are known to spread misinformation too.
“So, it has become a kind of organised crime in cyberspace. And so, we knew that we have been at the forefront of creating an architecture in the media to fight this malaise.
“And we’ve spoken with other media houses about collaborating on this before.
“And so we thought that with the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive misinformation that came with it, perhaps it was the right time to look at properly setting up a concrete operation to deal with it. That’s why we are setting up the FactCheckHub.”
According to him, misinformation spreads so much because of the ignorance of the ordinary person who is gullible.
“We want to engineer an environment where every single person can be a fact-checker, so that if an ordinary person sees misinformation or fake news, he or she will be able to identify, decipher that this is fake news so that they don’t share it.
“Rather than share it, they provide knowledge or information that this is not genuine.
“So, we want to spread this kind of thinking. We also want to use our fact-checking processes in a way that we’ll be able to reach the very ordinary Nigerians and Africans in the rural areas,” he said.
Also commenting on the launch, Rosemary Olufemi, a Senior Programme Officer in charge of the FactCheckHub at the centre, said that misinformation was a threat to democracy.
According to her, misinformation has negatively impacted elections, ignited communal clashes, and deepened the challenges caused by epidemics such as the coronavirus and Ebola.
She said that in order to provide accurate information and foster a fact-check culture among the general public there was need to spur the intervention of the Factcheckhub project.
The FactCheckHub project is an initiative of the ICIR and is supported by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), in partnership with Africa Uncensored (AUC) in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Continental reports that the ICIR is an independent, non-profit news agency that seeks to promote transparency and accountability through robust and objective investigative reporting.