Meet The Woman Combatting COVID-19 Misinformation Across AfricaUpdated: July 6th, 2021
Doreen Wainainah leads a team of 20 fact-checkers across a dozen African countries who work every day to find and debunk viral claims on social networks and in the media. They produce stories in four languages — English, French, Swahili, and Amharic — to help ensure that people have access to accurate news information.
In March 2020, as the pandemic took hold around the world, the PesaCheck team began seeing misinformation about COVID-19, which has continued and developed since.
“Originally there were a lot of conspiracy theories where they were saying 5G causes COVID-19,” she said. “But there was also misinformation [suggesting that] Africans can’t get COVID-19 or Africans can’t die of COVID-19.”
In an age where misinformation is prevalent and rapidly spreads, particularly on social media, her advice for everyone is to always look at the source of information, and to determine whether it may be accurate based on what organization is sharing it — such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the WHO.
Additionally, she said people can look for red flags in posts such as typos and misplaced logos or brand colours, as some false information is made to look like it is posted by credible organizations such as the Red Cross, or various health ministries.
She added: “In a world where everything just goes viral, whether it’s true or not, I think fact checkers are necessary in terms of just making sure misinformation stops going as viral — so we slow down that process or stop it altogether.”