We’ve all had one experience or personal encounter with false news online. Whether from a distant friend innocently reposting information online without confirming it or a family member sending false information without verifying it.
False news spreads quickly online, especially on social media, because when people receive information online, they do not verify it before passing it on.
In Ghana, Meta (formerly Facebook) launched the #NoFalseNewsZone, an educational campaign, in an effort to help Ghanaians learn how to identify false news, verify the information before sharing it and learn the actions they can take to help minimise the spread of false news in the country.
In order to create a movement committed to ensuring a false news-free zone in Ghana, Meta has launched a campaign that speaks to different classes of people in Ghana.
Here are some of the things Meta did in Ghana to help create a #NoFalseNewsZone online:
1. Launching the #NoFalseNewsZone Comic Book Series in Ghana
To inspire action against the spread of misinformation and create a movement committed to a #NoFalseNewsZone in Ghana, Meta has launched the #NoFalseNewsZone comic book series in Ghana. In partnership with Comic Republic, a creative company specialised in the creation and distribution of indigenous comic books, Meta launched a 20-page comic book featuring three distinct stories that capture the impact of misinformation in the lives of real people.
The comic book series follows the stories of a university student, an experienced nurse, and an intern journalist as they go on their personal journeys to educate people on how to identify and curb false news and join the fight against misinformation to help create a #NoFalseNewsZone online.
Launched in April in Accra, the comic book is available for free downloads. A limited number of print copies were distributed to select participants at the campaign launch and comic book launch.
2. The #NoFalseNewsZone Radio Drama and Jingles
To reach more people with the message for this campaign, a story from the comic book was adapted into a radio drama. The radio drama, voiced in Twi, was created to reach and engage more Ghanaians.
The story captures the journey of a Nurse, Akosua, who almost lost her husband due to false news he had read and believed online. In the story, listeners can follow the journey of how she and her husband overcame the impact of false news and how she now takes her time to enlighten her patients on the need to think critically about what they read, trust and share online.
In addition to the radio drama that was aired in Ghana across top radio stations, radio jingles were also created in Twi, Fante and other local languages to help pass the message of the campaign across to more people in Ghana.
3. Engaging the media and influencers
Meta’s media roundtable event had notable stakeholders from across Ghana engaging in conversation with representatives from the company on the importance of the media in fighting against the spread of misinformation in Ghana.
The engagement with the media did not stop at the roundtable event though. By partnering with Excellence In Broadcasting (EIB) Network, one of the largest media companies in Ghana, Meta committed to educating Ghanaians on the impact of false news across the country.
This partnership and engagement with the media is very important, but it is not all that’s been done to achieve the ultimate goal. To make the conversation as relatable as possible, Meta also engaged influencers in the country to drive the message home to individuals in the country. Influencers who have built an audience by engaging Ghanaians with content they can relate with were brought in to help make the message as relatable and clear as possible.
The introduction of social influencers is important because of how it simplifies the messaging for a wider audience across the country. Influencers typically make their content as relatable as possible, encouraging participation from their diverse audience.
This is an important thing for this campaign. Being able to unlock the participation of the general diverse audience of influencers in the country, Meta can now more effectively engage Ghanaians and create a movement to reduce misinformation in the country.
4. Educational Content on Social Media
Meta wants to make sure that with this campaign, no one is left behind and, to reach everyone, they have created educational content that can be shared online to help more people learn about the impact of false information, how to identify it, and what to do about it.
Meta’s recently published Advisory Video shows Ghanaians how to verify information, what to do with false news and how to report accounts on Meta apps that are notorious for sharing false information.
In addition to all that has been done for this campaign, key representatives for Meta in Africa generally and West Africa, in particular, were hosted to interviews on radio and television. During these interviews, they explained the importance of the campaign in Ghana, what the goal is and what Meta has done, is doing, and will do to continue to ensure a false news zone in the country.
Meta’s commitment to creating a #NoFalseNewsZone in Ghana has been demonstrated in their efforts through the launch of this campaign. From launching the #NoFalseNewsZone comic book series, to create awareness among media representatives to extend the awareness to the general public, Meta is helping Ghanaians understand the reality of false news and how to reduce its spread.
Across the world, the internet provides an opportunity for information to spread faster and reach people quicker. In our online communities, information is reaching people faster than ever, and a byproduct of this is that false information is being spread as well.
What can we do to help reduce the spread of false information in our online communities in Ghana and create a #NoFalseNewsZone online? These 10 steps are specially curated for those who are ready to join the movement.
One of the most important personal responsibilities when creating a #NoFalseNewsZone online in Ghana is to think critically about the messages you receive online, especially on social media.
Thinking critically about the information you receive means checking who sent it or verifying its authenticity by comparing it with other trusted sources.
As mentioned, one of the important first steps to ensuring a false news free zone in Ghana is checking the source of the information. If the information does not check out or the source is not trustworthy, it is important to take action that helps reduce the spread of that piece of information.
By discarding unverifiable information or information that is not substantiated by unbiased and trusted sources, you contribute to reducing the spread of false news in your community and in Ghana, generally.
Across social media, there are accounts notorious for spreading misinformation for the sake of agitating people, stirring public unrest, or as clickbait to increase views on their platforms. Reporting such accounts on Facebook and Instagram is a way of contributing to reducing the spread of misinformation.
Simply discarding false information and discontinuing the spread may not be enough to dissuade the people who spread it to you. You can go the extra mile and become an advocate against the spread of false news within your community by educating the people in your circle.
Don’t just ignore false information your close friends share on social media. Go the extra mile to educate them on why false information is disingenuous and how they can verify information going forward.
False information shared online often carries some element of bias or exaggeration with the aim of drawing negative reactions from the audience. When you receive information online, be sure to look out for elements that indicate bias or exaggeration.
Remind yourself that when people see the need to exaggerate or be biassed, the information they have to share may not be as relevant or accurate as they claim. Before you act on that information, do well to cross-check with information elsewhere and determine the veracity of their claims.
Contributed to a false news-free zone in your online community by sharing only verified information within your circle. Sharing verified information both helps people stay informed and discredit false information.
By sharing only verified information, you help the people around you learn the truth about the things happening around them while also demonstrating the value of verifying information before sharing it.
Remember that Ghana can become a false news-free zone if we collectively learn to:
- Verify information before sharing it
- Cross-check information we receive with trustworthy platforms
- Check for bias and exaggeration in the information we receive
- And discontinue the spread of untrue and unverifiable information.