Guardians of truth? Fact-checking the ‘disinfodemic’ in Southern Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Abstract

Based on virtual ethnography and online interviews, we provide new evidence of how fact-checking organizations based in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia responded to the influx of conspiracy theories, mis-and disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study seeks to answer the following questions: What kind of responses did ZimFact, Africa Check and Namibia Fact Check put in place to combat the spread of the ‘disinfodemic’ during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Southern Africa? To what extent were these interventions effective in terms of combating the viral spread of the ‘disinfodemic’ in the broader information ecosys-tem? It argues that through a combination of manual and technology-enabled verification processes, these organizations were partly able to debunk some of the harmful, conspiratorial and misleading claims related to the coronavirus. It demonstrates that fact-checking alone is not enough to stem the ‘disinfodemic’ unless it is complemented by an ecosystem that prioritizes access to information, media literacy initiatives, proactive takedown interventions by platform compa-nies and increased public awareness on truthful and credible public health infor-mation. Furthermore, fact-checking organizations need to increase the speed at which they respond to the ‘disinfodemic’ if virality, which is the major driver of this ‘ phenomenon’, is to be mitigated. We recommend that fact-checkers should implement efficient mechanisms of decentralizing their activities, amplify the sharing of verified information, forge collaborative initiatives with key actors and ramp up critical media literacy programmes.

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APA

Mare, A., & Munoriyarwa, A. (2022). Guardians of truth? Fact-checking the ‘disinfodemic’ in Southern Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of African Media Studies, 14(1), 63–71. https://doi.org/10.1386/jams_00065_1

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