Nigeria is teaming up with global tech giants like Facebook and Twitter to battle fake news as coronavirus (Covid-19) induced lockdowns are enforced in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states.
Unfounded rumours and misinformation have become a thing across social media and messaging platforms in the 21st century.
“If you think you have coronavirus ... you must learn to unblock your airway by boiling lemon/ginger & inhaling,” one bogus tweet from a user in Nigeria with more than 119,000 followers, reads.
Artist Aderemi Adegbite shakes his head as a false rumour on WhatsApp that the government intends to spray coronavirus-fighting chemicals from a plane, made the rounds on WhatsApp, Reuters writes.
“These messages are actually a big problem, even though they look or sound funny,” he said. “We are in a serious situation.”
There have been claims that blacks are immune from the virus; and that any black person who contracts it isn’t likely to die because the disease is not any different from the malaria ailment that has afflicted the black world for decades.
“There has never been a more critical time than now for us to leverage on social media in sending out the right message,” says Chikwe Ihekweazu, who heads the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
What the deal looks like
The NCDC will be getting free ad space on Facebook about the pandemic.
11 other African countries and several other countries across the world will also be receiving this service.
Nigeria health officials are also partnering with the Facebook owned WhatsApp to send push notifications to users with advice on symptoms and how to avoid infection.
Twitter has been tweaking its algorithm to elevate medical information from authoritative sources - an initiative available in 70 countries, including five in Africa, according to Reuters.
Some state governments in Nigeria, like Osun, have enacted punitive laws to fight fake news at this time.
Sharing fake news about the coronavirus could bag you a six-month jail term in Osun, southwest Nigeria, according to state governor, Gboyega Oyetola.
“The promotion of unverified, untested, or unapproved cures, vaccines or other similar items that purport to cure, alleviate or reduce instances of persons infected with Covid-19 constitutes an offence and offenders upon conviction will be liable to six-month imprisonment or an option of fine," an official statement from the Osun state government reads.
Nigeria has confirmed 190 cases of the novel coronavirus at the time of writing. Of this tally, 24 have recovered and have been discharged, while two have died from the infection.