In the wake of viral false and misleading narratives about the novel Corona Virus, COVID-19, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced that it will be partnering Dubawa and Africa Check, two independent fact checking organisations operating in Nigeria which are signatories of the International Fact-checking Network and Facebook’s Third-Party Fact-checkers in the country.
The NCDC in a statement said since the declaration of the virus as a global health emergency by WHO, both organisations have used their media platforms to provide accurate information while detecting and dispelling misinformation on the new coronavirus. Adding that platform-and format-specific fact-checking are some of the strategies adopted by the organisations to verify images, videos, audio clips and texts circulated widely on platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said, “Misinformation and disinformation have the potential to cause panic, spread the pandemic even further and jeopardize our global efforts in the fight against this virus. This collaboration is essential at this time as we work together to curb fake news and improve the quality of information by directing people to relevant and credible sources of information about COVID-19.”
He stated that with the partnership, the three organisations commit to jointly debunk coronavirus-related misinformation, disinformation and mal-information in real time, where possible, to reduce the deluge of false information around COVID-19 in Nigeria.
‘’This is an unprecedented challenge that affects all Nigerians, regardless of social class, ethnicity, location and religious affiliation. The number of new cases surfacing in the country shows that it is our current reality and while we must refrain from spreading panic and fear, we unduly have an obligation to the public to report on the true state of affairs so that Nigerians can take precautionary measures, the Programme Officer of Dubawa, Ebele Oputa said.
A significant feature of this partnership is the ability to reach more Nigerians together to provide verified information to the public through a rigorous process of truth seeking.
Also, the editor of Africa Check, David Ajikobi said, “While government agencies and health workers collaborate to contain the spread of the coronavirus, we believe there is also the need for collaboration in curtailing the spread of false information about the virus. Fighting misinformation and disinformation is tough and with regards to COVID-19, it’s an emergency. So, it will require the combined efforts of as many hands as possible”.
According to the NCDC, regular updates about COVID-19 will be shared on the social media platforms of each organisation, setting out facts and evidence clearly and in simple English to aid easy comprehension.
The Centre also said that debunked information will also be reproduced as simple, easily shareable social media cards.
“A repository of all COVID-19 related debunked information will be shared on NCDC’s microsite for easy referencing. To stay updated, follow @ncdcgov on Twitter and Facebook.”