Fellowship 2020ReportsResearch

Fact-Check­ing ­in an Infodemi­c: Examining the ­Informat­ion Ecosystem ­in West Africa


Information disorder is a growing concern in the global information ecosystem. Advances in technologies have liberalised information access and dissemination, enabling anyone with relevant communication facilities to publish varied forms of communication contents to a global audience. Hence, information dissemination to mass and diverse audiences is no longer the exclusive preserve of conventional mass media which have the supportive framework to check information accuracy in an often rigorous editorial process. A major shortcoming of this liberalisation of communication space is the increasing free flow of false information in the public space. This has given rise to fact-checking  efforts in an attempt to stem the flow of false information through painstaking verification of public claims, with expectation of greater vigilance among media audiences. 

In this study, we examine public awareness of misinformation in the media and the potential impact of fact-checking organisations in combating spread of misinformation. To this end, we developed four key research objectives focusing on the level of audience awareness of misinformation in the public space; their trust in the media; tendencies to verify media information; and perceived influence of fact-checking efforts in the West African sub-region.  We adopted the online survey research method using a google form designed questionnaire shared among potential respondents. We adopted a non-probability sampling method to invite potential respondents from Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone to fill. A total of 508 respondents participated in the survey and the data generated were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively.

The study finds that respondents rely more on online news portals for information with many experiencing false information in varied forms on their preferred platforms; while rating Facebook and WhatsApp as leading platforms for promotion of false information. Respondents generally reported a high tendency in verifying information. Despite the majority experiencing false information on their preferred media platforms, many still trusted their choice media and the information therein. About 95% claimed they often verify information which they received on social media but less than half agreed to verifying information from social media platforms that have previously misled them. Respondents thus rated social media platforms, blogs, and online news portals, low in trust compared to traditional media. Awareness of fact-checking organisations and utilisation of their services was low among respondents but there was high appreciation of fact-checking activities.

Respondents’ level of trust in mainstream media and fact-checking organisations is encouraging. These are alternative verification platforms that should be equipped and strengthened by stakeholders, including donors, governments, fact-checking organisations and technology companies to help sanitise the public space from information pollution. Although this study notes the positive influence of fact-checking organisations on the ability of the media audience to cope with misinformation, fact-checkers must work harder to improve on this feat.

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Communication is central to the survival of human beings and other living organisms in the world and it has played a vital role in human civilisation. Turcilo & Obrenovic (2020) observed that the challenges and manipulative use of communication had also plunged nations into wars. This made communication a catalyst to human existence, illustrated by the popular saying that “man cannot not communicate”. It is with the realisation of this that the society ties development to communication. Extensive research (e.g: Encyclopedia, 2020; Bro, 2013; Neuberger, Nuernbergk & Langenoh, 2019; Örebro, 2002; Stroobant, Van den Bogaert & Raeymaeckers, 2019) has been conducted to establish the connection between communication and other components of the society. The society places a premium on communication in the socialisation process, making all stakeholders to integrate this to the attainment of the mission and vision of organisations around the world. Individuals, family, groups, local, national and international institutions consider information as an integral part of their existence. These stakeholders have invested in efforts to understand the information ecosystem in order to maximise its benefits and prevent challenges that always result from inadequate or poor communication. 

The constant evolution of society and its attendant technological advancement have become a recurring decimal. The disruptive nature of digital technology has further exposed the latent power of communication and its adoption for positive and negative purposes. In an attempt to control human minds to achieve specific objectives, the manipulation of information flow has now become the order of the day (Abubakar, 2015). Information pollution has permeated governance, politics, economy, religion, education, health and other sectors of the society. 

Contemporary issues around the world today are often accompanied by conspiracy theories. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic and the US 2020 presidential election were tainted with disinformation and misinformation (Adeniran, 2020a; Adeniran, 2020b; Mantas, 2020). Africa, with its peculiar development challenges, has its fair share of issues of information pollution. Many issues in Africa with great impact on the respective countries have been linked to information disorder. Challenges relating to elections, economy, health, governance and other sectors in the continent are difficult to address owing to the state of confusion arising from the avalanche of disinformation and misinformation about these phenomena. (Folarin, 2020; Masters, 2020; Pauwels, 2020; Claire & Hossein, 2017)

Just as many African countries are ravaged by wars and diseases, with the proliferation of arms, information pollution in the continent can be likened to experience with “Weapon of Mass Destruction” and Covid-19 pandemic (Masters, 2020; van der Linden, Roozenbeek & Compton 2020; Teyit English & Tandans Data Science Consulting, 2020 Towers-Clark, 2019; Ireton & Posetti 2018). The widespread disinformation and misinformation cutting across all barriers and without borders has popularised the concept of Infodemic. The World Health Organisation (2020) explained the concept as “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”

As the world continues to search for vaccines and potent drugs to prevent and treat Covid-19 disease (Ricard & Thibault, 2020; Saey 2020), stakeholders are also searching for solution on how disinformation and misinformation will not frustrate any success that will be recorded in this respect, as experienced in the outbreak, spread, and management of the novel coronavirus (Teyit English & Tandans Data Science Consulting). This scenario applies to all other aspects of engagements in the society. 

Several studies have investigated information disorder around the world. Among these is one by  Tayit, an independent fact-checking organisation in Turkey, in conjunction with Tandans Data Science Consulting. The study (Tayit & Tandans, 2020) provides insights into issues around false information. Though Tayit’s study focused on Covid-19 misinformation and potential impact on the information ecosystem in Turkey, it provides the perspectives and clues to interrogate the broader information disorder ecosystem in the African context. Improving media literacy is fast becoming the go-to antidote for combating the pollution within the information ecosystem. 

As part of its efforts in improving media literacy to combat the  challenges of disinformation and misinformation in the information ecosystem, Dubawa, an indigineous fact-checking organisation, instituted a research-driven project, the Information Disorder Analysis Centre (IDAC) aimed at providing a platform for the dissemination of research findings that dissect issues around information disorder.  For six months, the 2020 Dubawa fact-checking research fellows examined issues around the information disorder ecosystem in West Africa. 

In furtherance of the fellowship programme, the 2020 Dubawa research fellows embarked on this research project to understand public understanding of misinformation in the public space, and the relevance and utilisation of fact-checking services in combating misinformation. The research fellows were drawn from Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Research Objectives

The study thus sought to understand the West African information ecosystem through the following key objectives that guided the study.

  1. To find out the respondents’ level of awareness on misinformation in public space.
  2. To examine the extent to which audiences verify information from the media in West Africa.
  3. To examine the level to which respondents trust the media.
  4. To assess the perceived influence of fact-checking on audience ability to cope with misinformation.


This study adopts quantitative and qualitative research methods using online surveys with  a Google form designed questionnaire shared among potential respondents. The desirability of this approach is underscored by its ability to elicit data from a large number of respondents in an era of social distancing as necessitated by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

This research study targeted smart-phone users in West-African countries where Dubawa currently operates – Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra-Leone. We limited potential participants to smartphone users within the region due to the adoption of the online survey method. The rationale was to reach respondents through smartphones considered to be the most effective means to share the questionnaire, thus limiting physical contacts.

The questionnaire included open and closed-ended questions. The questionnaire link was widely shared online, via e-mails, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as personal WhatsApp contacts and groups. Respondents were invited to click on the link and fill the questionnaire. Participation was voluntary and responses were accepted over a 4-week period from Monday, November 9 to Sunday, December 6, 2020. Over this period, we shared the link repeatedly across the online platforms used. Participation was however low with a total of 508 respondents filling the questionnaire across the three West African countries and beyond. 

The data were extracted to a google spreadsheet and exported to Microsoft Excel Sheet and analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The responses were sorted to separate responses to the close-ended questions from the open-ended questions. Data from the close-ended questions were subsequently analysed using frequency tables and charts. Meanwhile, the open-ended questions, where respondents freely expressed their opinions to specific questions were qualitatively analysed with findings integrated into the discussion section . 

The bulk of the 508 respondents that filled the questionnaire were based in Nigeria. Out of these, 87% (n=446) responded from Nigeria, 7% responded from Sierra Leone (n=30), while respondents from Ghana accounted for 5% (n=25), and Diaspora 1% (n=7). Incidentally, the respondents rate is close to the percentage of the population census of the three countries. The approximation of the entire population of the three countries, according to Worldometer, is 247 million with Nigeria accounting for 208 million which represents 84% of the entire population of the three West African countries. This supports the 87% of the respondents coming from Nigeria. 

In terms of age and gender, respondents were mostly between 18 and 45 years old. While more younger women aged 29 years and below responded to the survey, more men aged 30 to 45 years responded. By level of education, respondents were highly educated with the majority of them having post-secondary qualifications. The demographic data of respondents are presented in the charts below. 

Study Limitations

This study is limited mostly by its adopted method. The adoption of online surveys, non-probability sampling of respondents, and restriction of respondents to smartphone users in the region are key limitations of this study. The online survey was adopted due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic to eliminate face to face contacts with respondents. Unfortunately, we could only share the questionnaire among personal contacts and groups on WhatsApp, and other social media platforms. The questionnaire was also repeatedly shared on Dubawa’s social media platforms. Despite repeated efforts in sharing the questionnaire links with thousands of smart-phone users, responses were low, struggling to hit just over 500 respondents after 4 weeks. Those without smartphone access were therefore strategically excluded from the study. This is a major shortcoming considering the sizable number of people without smartphone access in the West African sub-region. These limitations may therefore limit the generalisation of our findings. Despite these limitations, it is hoped that our findings can at least provide a glimpse into public understanding of misinformation in the public space and appreciation of fact-checking efforts. We hereby recommend a more robust study covering all major segments, and reflective of the socio-economic dynamics of the people within the region for future research endeavours. 


Level of awareness on misinformation in public space 

In this study, we examined public awareness of misinformation in the public space. To achieve this, we asked respondents specific questions relating to their choice of media for news information; whether they encounter false information on such medium; and specific forms of presentation of false information in their preferred media.  We then asked them to rate their perceived level of false information on varied media platforms spanning radio, television, newspaper, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and online news portals. They were requested to rate the platforms on a scale of one to four with four being highest, three as moderate, two as low, and one, being lowest.

Our findings suggest increasing reliance on online news portals for news-related information. One in three respondents (33%) identified online news portals as their prime source of news information. The increasing internet penetration in West Africa (Varrella, 2020) might be driving such a shift in news consumption.  Unfortunately, these preferred media choices appear rife with false information with about three in four respondents (72%) confirming presence of false information on such platforms. The false information is often presented in different formats including audio, videos, images, and text.  More than six out of ten respondents (64%) confirmed experiencing false information on their preferred media choice in all listed forms. 

Facebook, WhatsApp rated  as top Platforms for Promotion of False Information

Respondents mostly rated Facebook and WhatsApp as having the highest level of misinformation. Both platforms had an overall rated average of 3.5 on our rated scale of one to four.  Online news portals, Twitter, and Instagram had overall moderate average rating recording approximate mean value of 3.0. Traditional news media, newspapers, radio and television were relatively well rated recording overall low rating of 2.0 thus suggesting members of the public still have higher level of confidence in information received from these traditional news media.

We further requested respondents’ view on the seeming abundance of false information in the public space. Many respondents confirmed abundance of false information in the public space relating misinformation (fake news) to “a pandemic” “on the loose” “thriving than real news” as it is reportedly “responsible for lack of trust in the media”, killing “the credibility of the news gathering process”, and with potential to “kill faster than guns”. Many believed that misinformation is not just “a threat to world’s security and democracy” but also “a recipe for unrest…associated with the post-truth age”.   Respondents considered factors  responsible for misinformation spread to include “lack of professionalism in the mainstream media”, “public’s docility, ignorance and complacency”. Many believed “Social media are more responsible” for promoting misinformation. Respondents thus suggested possible solutions to misinformation menace noting that while “media literacy is essential, social media needs to be regulated without hampering freedom of expression”and “the government needs to do more on fact-checking”. 

Extent to which audiences verify information from the media

On verification of information in the media, we asked respondents specific questions on the extent to which they verify information they encounter in the media and how they usually identify false information. We also asked specific questions on whether they have cause to doubt information on social media. We requested them to strongly agree, agree, or otherwise to verify information they encounter on social media, and whether they tend to verify information on social media handles that have previously misled them.

Respondents expressed higher likelihood of verifying information in the media. More than nine in ten respondents confirmed regularly or sometimes verifying information they encounter.  The remaining rarely or never did. 

To identify false information, majority of respondents, more than eight in ten, (84%) said they often cross checked with other sources. Another 10%, or one in ten respondents said they simply base their judgement on their instincts. Few said they do not bother while others simply considered information in contrast to their beliefs to be fake. Three respondents each expressed variant views. One noted relying on eye-witness accounts, “From comments of everyday people who witnessed the said event”. Another noted her realisation often after exploring the content, “When you open the information e.g. job opportunity you will realise that it has expired”. The third noted evaluating the information source, “Checking the publisher or author of the information”.

Regarding information on social media, 95% of respondents confirmed doubting information they encountered on social media platforms. Three in four respondents (75%) agreed they verify information they come across on social media. Over 10% disagreed, while more than 14 percent were undecided. 

Less than half of respondents (44%) agreed to only verifying information from social media platforms that have previously misled them. Over 30 percent of respondents, or about one in three, disagreed on this while one in four respondents (25%) were undecided. 

 Public Trust in the Media

On the level of public trust in the media, we examined the extent to which members of the public trust their preferred media, and also the information they receive therefrom. Respondents were asked to rate their trust level on a scale of five to one with five being ‘very high’, four as ‘high’, three as ‘average’, two as ‘low’, and one being ‘very low’.  We then asked respondents to equally rate their trustworthiness of information on the same scale across various media covering radio, television, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, online news portals and blogs. 

Respondents appeared to have fair confidence in their choice media and the information they receive from their respective preferred media. Both recorded a relatively high overall average score of 3.7 on our scale of one to five.  As earlier observed with respondents’ low rating of false information in the traditional mass media, respondents also fairly rated information they receive on these media. Radio, television, and newspapers recorded a well above average score of 3.7 to 3.9 on respondents’ trust ratings of their disseminated information.  Information on Twitter, online news portals, and blogs received overall lesser than average ratings of 2.7 to 2.9. Information on blogs, Facebook, and WhatsApp got a rather low rating of 2.3 to 2.4.

Respondents’ trust ratings of information in the media on a scale of 1-5 (Very High as 5 to Very low as 1)

Information sourceV. High (5)High (4)Average (3)Low (2)V.Low (1)Total Resp.Mean  ScoreOverall Rating
Information on Television?1127810210555013.9High
Information on Radio?122601467554983.8High
Medium form which respondents mostly source information822002011645033.7High
Information respondents source from their preferred medium/media?92211828434993.7High
Information on Newspapers?242211658745013.7High
Information on Twitter?1288920925414922.9Average
Information on online news portals?839526915354972.9Average
Information on Instagram?1425522911474842.7Average
Information on blogs?164441964804882.4Low
Information on Facebook?202191768965012.3Low
Information on WhatsApp?1802616791164982.3Low

Assessing Potential Influence of Fact-Checking 

To examine potential influence of fact-checking organisations and their activities, we examined the level of awareness of fact-checking organisations among respondents. We requested to know whether they usually request fact-checking organisations to verify information they are doubtful of, and how often they do.  We also examined their reliance on fact-checking organisations for false information in the media, and requested them to rate the extent to which these organisations have helped in improving our information ecosystem.

More than half of respondents were unaware of any fact-checking organisation.  Over 70% (73%) of respondents failed to identify any fact-checking organisation. Dubawa was the most recalled organisation among respondents with about 16% mentioning the organisation. Africa Check had 9% mention while People’s Check had just 4%/ other fact-checking organisations or projects mentioned by respondents included Facebook fact checker, Fact Check Nigeria, FactCheck.org, Round Check, Fact Check Hub, and AFP Fact Check. 

On requesting verification from fact-checking organisations, about six in ten respondents (58%) said they did not while four in 10 respondents (42%) said they did. Respondents also expressed less tendency to verify information (they are doubtful of) from fact-checking organisations. A similar percentage of respondents, (57%) said they never or rarely did.

More than half of respondents however confirmed being aware of false information in the media through these fact-checking platforms even though a large percentage (about 40%) were also undecided. Respondents mostly appreciated fact-checking efforts with about seven in ten respondents noting fact-checking has ‘fairly’ or ‘very well’ helped clarify information in the public space. Most respondents, more than six in ten, agreed to have personally benefited from activities of fact-checking organisations. 


The findings of this study have provided key roadmaps to the elucidation of the broad aim of the study, which is to investigate the information ecosystem in West Africa through the prism of fact-checking in the era of infodemic. 

On the level of awareness of misinformation in the public space, participants’  array of definitional approaches to the term “fake news” explains their appreciable level of awareness of information disorder across board. The underpinning themes derived from their responses revolve around the usual narrative that is common to most news audiences. To a larger percentage of the respondents, the term can simply be explained as:   unverified information, with a tendency to mislead; information that is untrue, misleading and factually incorrect; or as information that is “manipulated”, “fabricated” or, at best, “false information presented as true”. 

The fact that an average respondent made a reference to any of the terms which even experts dealing with information disorder will most likely agree to, shows that their level of awareness and ability to spot fake contents is moderately high. The statistics of respondents (72%) confirming the presence of false information on their preferred media platforms also shows a growing level of awareness of infodemic in the region. This position is in tandem with a report on fake news and disinformation by the independent High-Level Group of Experts (HLEG) commissioned by the European Commission which defines “fake news” as a form of disinformation that thrives on “fabricated information, blended with facts, and practices that go well beyond anything resembling ‘news’ to include some forms of automated accounts used for astroturfing, networks of fake followers, fabricated or manipulated videos, targeted advertising, organized trolling, visual memes’’ (European Union, 2018, p.11; cited in Okoro & Emmanuel, 2019). 

Apparently, this growing awareness of information disorder, particularly on social media might have influenced respondents’ doubting of information received on the platform. As reported in this study, while 75% of respondents verified information they received on social media, 95% of them confirmed doubting information on social media platforms. This finding supports a 2013 survey of online news users in the UK which showed that, on average, 25% used social media to find news at least once a week, but that less than 10% trusted that information (Schifferes, et al., 2014). 

Reports have fingered social media as an enabler of information disorder in the public space (Ziga, 2018). This apparently influenced the reasons most respondents (95%) claim that they had cause to doubt information on the social media platforms. With diverse but mostly-related opinions, respondents claim that most information shared on social media platforms were influenced by mere instincts, highly polluted and prone to manipulations. For those who have been victims of false contents online, the tendencies are that they become highly sceptical than those who are not, as about “44% agreed that they verify information they received on social media platforms that have previously misled them”.

The growing awareness of the respondents about misinformation is indicative of the ability to move from mere instincts to a more cognitive and critical thinking in their levels of information consumption particularly on social media. This suggests that despite the indispensability of social media platforms, their propensity for being critical of any information is advancing. What factors specifically influence audience propensity for cognitive thinking faculty in their exposure to misinformation? Pennycook, Cheyne, Koehler, and Fugelsang (2015) explained the psychological motive behind these tendencies, using the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT). 

The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) measures one’s propensity to reflect on intuitions or cognitiveness. In their study, Pennycook et al (2015) observed that news audiences can be controlled by instinct (intuition) or cognitively. While the former most time stick to their instincts even when confronted with false information, the latter deploy cognitive thinking faculty to reflect and be sceptical when exposed to false content online. 

Pennycook et al (2015) observed that intuitive individuals may or may not detect the need to think analytically, but they decide nonetheless to go with their gut. 

Robson (2020) reacted to this theory and observed that, someone’s tendency to employ their intelligence by thinking things through in a deliberative, analytical fashion is ruled by cognitiveness. Those who do not reflect when confronted with a piece of information are not necessarily bereft of effortful thinking capacity as they are obviously in possession of substantial mental reserves, but they don’t “spend” them. They are simply cognitively miserly. Cognitive miserliness renders us susceptible to many cognitive biases, and it also seems to change the way we consume information (and misinformation). 

The finding of this study concerning public trust in the media also corroborates existing literature as the respondents’ low rating of false information in the traditional mass media suggests a sustained level of trust in the mainstream media. Even, the fairly rated information they receive on the mainstream media corroborates an existing study which finds that more than a quarter of respondents trusted newspapers and broadcast media more than social media (Raji, 2020b). Hence, there is more indication that a significant number of the news audiences still maintain their trust in the established news brands rather than social media. 

However, the legitimacy and credibility of information in the mainstream media is currently being challenged by the proliferation of fake contents that found their ways into the established news media. This has become a challenge in recent times to news audiences whose yearning for alternative sources of credible information and verification has gained traction with independent fact-checkers who realise there have been cracks. This is the gap fact-checking journalism aims to fill. Cheruiyot, et al, (2018) aver that in an environment where misinformation threatens news organisations, “the process of fact-checking in itself has become an epistemological tool that several actors beyond traditional journalism propose”.  Annamarie (2017) also agreed that “fact-checking organisations arise from the need to remedy media   failures”. What is the influence of fact-checking organisations on news audiences in West Africa? What has been their influence on the audience ability to cope with misinformation? Are citizens aware of fact-checking organisations in West Africa? What is the rate at which citizens request fact-checking organisations to verify information they are doubtful of, and how often do they engage in this? 

The thematic areas gaining attention from the data analysed can be discussed from the angle of nomenclature, utility and request. 

From the angle  of nomenclature, which is the system of names, data shows most respondents (73%) were unable to identify existing fact-checking organisations in West Africa. This then calls to question the relationship that exists between the organisations and the news audience. The danger then shows that the goals of the existing fact-checking organisations to raise the consciousness of an audience to make informed decisions are still a far cry. The impact of these organisations can only be felt provided the essence of their professional goals resonates with the audience.  Cheruiyot et al, (2018) reported that there are two ways fact-checkers aim to achieve their goals: one is to help members of the public to make informed decisions or “to have accurate data based on factual evidence and then the second is to help raise the standard of journalism or to help journalists be better at fact checking and doing their jobs”. The reality of these goals to be impactful on the audience is a function of relationship and the ability to recall the identity of the organisations that are making these commitments.  

At the level of utility, evidence shows that the audience have benefited from the activities of these organisations, regardless of whether or not they could recall their names. As the finding indicates, more than half of respondents confirmed being aware of false information in the media through these fact-checking platforms. Could this be attributed to the collaboration between news media and fact-checking organisations that created a synergy in which fact-checks are embedded in the news reports for the audience to consume? Also, in many instances, audiences get exposed to these fact-checks on the organisations’ website or social media handles. However, this study did not examine if this awareness of false information translates into changing the minds of the audience. While research has documented efforts by fact-checking organisations in partnering with local media and journalists to mitigate the spread of false information in the public domain (Raji, 2020a), as well as fact-checking organisations at the frontline of combating information disorder (Folarin, 2020a), the current study has taken a step further in evaluating the level at which news audience make use of fact-checks and other verification efforts of these organisations. Based on this, it then observes that if the partnership between news media and fact-checking organisations is anything to go by, it has influenced news verification, dissemination, and consumption. It shows that the level of media literacy on false information and fact-checks consumption has really resonated with the audience. However, our findings could not establish if the high level of education of the respondents  might have influenced   their ability to explore fact-checking to cope with a misinformation ecosystem.

At the level of request for verification from fact-checking organisations, finding shows more than half of the population (58%) were not interested in requesting for verification when in doubt, while a little less than half did. This goes to show that many news audiences may not get better informed about the fact of particular issues despite being exposed to fact-checks. The categories of the news audiences sampled in this study can then be summarised along: (i) those who are aware of fact-checkers but cannot recall their names; (ii) those who are aware of false information through fact-checks but rarely request fact-checkers for verification; and (iii) those who hold onto their point of views even when in doubt. In this case, there is a correlation between these categories of news audience and those identified in Janing and Wagner (2020).

According to Janing and Wagner (2020), there are four types of news audiences. These include: (i) the informed (those who know and are confident that they know); the uninformed (those who are aware they do not know and they answer “I don’t know”), the misinformed (those who believe that they know even though they are actually mistaken); the ambiguously informed (those who admit they are guessing, right or wrong and admit they are not sure).

So, the similarity of perspectives that can be drawn from the analysis of categorisations presented by this study and that of Janing and Wagner (2020)  is that respondents have different attitudes to fact-checking, its impact and how they think it affects their lives in the whole areas of misinformation ecosystem. 

Again, it can also be concluded that the possibility of having an informed audience to emerge in the future is not impossible. 


This study found a high level of public awareness on misinformation. The findings suggest an increasing reliance on online news portals for news-related information. However, respondents’ choice of media were not free of misinformation often experienced in varied forms. Our findings show greater levels of confidence in traditional news media. This study further established the prevalence of misinformation on social media platforms and the integrity of these platforms is nose-diving. This throws up the debate on the desirability or otherwise for social media regulations.

The extent to which the respondents verify information is high, as the majority admitted having crosschecked information they received with other sources. The study found a considerable level of media literacy skill with fair appreciation for fact-checking efforts.

Fact-checking is evolving in the West Africa sub-region. The increasing level of disinformation and misinformation underscores the importance of fact-checking in addressing the challenges of information disorder in Africa. Fact-checking organisations and other stakeholders need to increase media literacy and critical skills of the information audiences to improve the quality of information they consume. ‘Stakeholders must not relent in improving the awareness level and discerning minds of the media audience.  Credible sources such as the mainstream media and fact-checking organisations must further equip themselves as “alternative and verification platforms”. Some of the models that could be improved on to achieve this include: training more journalists to be fact checkers, establishing fact-checking desks in mainstream media organisations, support research and further encourage professionalism in the media business. The frontline fact-checking organisations in Africa should also spread their tentacles and activities not only to other African countries in which they have not reached, but also cities and rural areas in the country they are presently domiciled. 

Though the focus of this study measures the extent of awareness level and extent to which smartphone users verify information in West Africa, there is a need to find out the level of awareness of audiences not captured by this research especially those without internet connections and others in the rural areas.


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Raheemat Adeniran

Raheemat is a lecturer at the School of Communication, Lagos State University, Nigeria. She is a scholar with over 13 years experience in researching media contents across varied platforms. She has research interests in journalism and health communication. She is a 2020 Dubawa research fellow. She was a 2018 Erasmus scholar at the Birmingham City University, UK, and participated at the British Council’s 2019 Researcher Connect Workshop. She holds a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Communication Studies (2018) from Lagos State University. Among her most recent works is Making health news: Examining how health influencers drive coverage of maternal and child healthcare issues in Nigerian newspapers, Communication & Society, 33(4), 47-60. Available at https://revistas.unav.edu/index.php/communication-and-society/article/view/39350

Rasaki Raji 

Rasaki is a senior media content researcher at the International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos, Nigeria, with vast research interests in human rights and media development issues. He coordinated media content research project on 2019 general elections under the component 4b: Support to media of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN); media research project on 2015 general election, funded by the UNDP and jointly implemented by the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Nigerian Press council (NPC). He has also consulted for civil groups such as the Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) among others, on media research projects including the Regulators’ Monitoring Project (REMOP). In 2020, he is a research fellow of the Dubawa fact-checking arm of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) as a fact-checking and accountability researcher. 


Jamiu is a lecturer and researcher at the department of Mass Communication, Crescent University, Abeokuta and Ph.D candidate at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Nigeria. His research thesis is focused on “Critical Analysis of Adoption of Digital Tools in Fact-checking Information on the 2019 Elections”. His research interests include: Media Technology, Information Disorder, Political Communication and Journalism Ethics. Jamiu is a 2020 Dubawa Research Fellow on Fact-checking at the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ). Prior to his academic sojourn, he started his professional career at the first private radio station in Ogun State, Rockcity 101.9 F.M as one of the pioneer staff who built the News and Current Affairs Department. Jamiu is also the Ogun State Coordinator and Community Reporter, Connected Development, Abuja, with a Project tagged: “I Follow The Money” dedicated to tracking the national and international expenses in the area of Education, Health and Environment.  He recently co-authored “Appraisal of the Usage of Freedom of Information (FoI) Act in Nigeria” published in the Book 5 series (2020) of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN). 

Philip Acquaye 

Philip is a Lecturer and Head of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at BlueCrest University College in Accra, Ghana. He is a trained journalist, marketing communication professional and a researcher with 12 years experience working in academia, media and civil society spaces. His research interests include Media Management, Media sustainability, Development Communication and Media ethics. Philip is a 2020 Dubawa Research fellow on Fact-checking in Ghana.

Alie Tarawally

Alie Tarawally is a youth and development activist, researcher and also a graduate from The University of Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College with a Division One degree in Sociology and History. Alie has worked on OSIWA, CODESRIA and British Academy Award Projects on Youths as well as several other research & consultancy with MEASURE EVALUATION and IMPACT MALARIA. Alie has over four years’ experience working on development policy research across Sierra Leone and has written articles on youths, politics, media and society.    

Alie is a Commonwealth 100 0pen Source Leader, a Kectil 1000 Male Promise Leader and a Dubawa 2020 Fellow from Sierra Leone trained to fight against the dangers of information disorder by conducting fact-checks and providing media literacy articles and training in Sierra Leone. Currently, Alie is the Acting National Coordinator for the GRASS ROOTS ACTIONAL FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT- GRAND in Sierra Leone.

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