Battling the Epidemic of Fake News, Health Misinformation in the Midst of COVID 19 in Nigeria

Battling the Epidemic of Fake News, Health Misinformation in the Midst of COVID 19 in Nigeria

World over, the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic has been dogged by the struggle to contain the information epidemic that accompanies the novel virus. From the mode of transmission to the means of prevention, government efforts and confirmed cases, there are a lot of unreliable pieces of information flying around. What is more puzzling is the fact the perpetrators also go to any length to make their false information credible using photoshopped images. This piece takes a look at six of these unsubstantiated pieces of information that have been fact checked and declared lies from the bottom of hell.

10 Senators, 15 House of Representatives Allegedly Test Positive to Coronavirus   

This is a news story that came on the heels of information that some national legislators that were on some national assignment outside Nigeria were not subjecting themselves to test at the airports. The story which was super-imposed on a purported story that emanated from the Television Continental (TVC). This story is false. An organisation, KnowCOVID19Nigeria has declared the story fake as there was no evidence to back the story. No names of the legislators have been mentioned. There was neither a video or link to the story on the website of the satellite television.

The Index Case in Osun was a woman from Ilesa

The story started flying around when the state recorded its first confirmed case of the Coronavirus. People on social media began to speculate as to who and where the first  case emanated from. Within a twinkle of an eye, suggestions have been flying around. Names were mentioned. She was said to have just returned from the UK which is a high risk country. Horribly, panic level was raised as people began to concoct horror filled stories of deliberate carelessness of the infected person claimed to be a female doctor. The fiction argued the woman dropped her son at a crèche to mix with other children to spread the disease. She was also accused of flouting the rule of self isolation and went on as if she never had disease. However, the bubble of the story was burst when the Osun State Commissioner for Health, Ismaotu Rafiu, came on air on a local station to clear the air. Then, people realised the index case was a man. He never had anything to do with Ilesa. He came in from Lagos. Stayed at an hotel to self isolate. He drove himself to the state teaching hospital for test.

Job at World Health Organization

It was a fake job notification looking for people to help fight Coronavirus from home. The job requirement does not call for any experience. It offers from $5 to $100 on daily basis for sending SMS. Interested candidates were required to click a link and apply. A simple search on WHO website revealed such job was non-existent. It was a gimmick to steal people’s information submitted.

The Borno State-of-the-Art Isolation Centre

The story was reported by an online platform It was said that the Borno State government had built a 100-bed isolation centre in preparation for the novel virus. The photo went viral with people praising the Prof. Zulum Babagana Umara-led administration in Borno. However, in another tweet on his Twitter handle, the governor denied the story. He said it was the dialysis centre built by the state government. He said the state had a modest isolation centre and was tough on prevention.

Muhammadu Buhari’s Test on COVID 19 was Positive

A popular online blogger, Kemi Olunloyo tweeted the news that the test had by the president Muhammadu Buhari was positive and that he has been sick coughing intermittently. It was even said that a makeshift Intensive Care Unit has been set up for his treatment. The tweets was liked over 3000 times and retweeted more than 2,000 times. Events have proved that it was fake. The said story was later backed by a super imposed image of a headline to that effect on CNN. This is done in a bid to make the story credible. The presidency had to come out to deny the story.

Effects of Fake Stories on the Fight Agaisnt the Virus

An expert, Hassan Idayat, who is the director of Centre for Democracy and Development took a look at health misinformation and its effect on the fight against the virus. She submitted in an article that misinformation could affect the fight in different ways. One, it makes the responsible institutions to face a double battle of combating the scourge and the evil of misinformation that follow it. Two, it would weigh down the  health institutions fighting the virus. Three, it incites panic and panic buying. Four, it proffers fake cure and wrong information that could lead to more deaths. It promotes hate speech and division along political or ethnic lines when we are supposed to be united to fight the invasion.

As the battle against the novel virus rages on, we need to slow the pace of fake news and cut through the noise that surrounds the real enemy.

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