24 million Nigerians use Facebook every month, even more people use the company’s messaging app WhatsApp as their source of primary communication. As the accusation stands all over the world, the platform has only four people, from third-party fact-checking organizations, working to combat misinformation in the country where fake news has become a monster used to sway elections and personal interests by politicians and organizations. BBC Africa Eye reported earlier this year in an investigation into how fake news in the country has led to violence and murder.
Recent research suggests that African audiences see much more misinformation than American audiences do and that the public’s trust in the media is particularly low in Nigeria. Although Facebook recently reiterated its efforts to fighting fake news in the continent by launching fact checking tools, only little has been done to fight the real mess which is WhatsApp, the most popular platform across Africa. Yet by focusing on Facebook’s newsfeed and not on WhatsApp in Africa, the social networking company is likely passing over a crucial opportunity to deal with what has become a top source of misinformation that cannot be measured or questioned publicly. That’s what makes the difference with CrossCheck.
The platform which launched in Nigeria on Wednesday brings together journalists from 16 news outlets to collaborate on verifying information spread on social media, especially ahead of Nigeria’s 2019 general election. CrossCheck Nigeria is the combined effort of First Draft and the International Center for Investigative Reporting, and WhatsApp is its starting point. First Draft’s Claire Wardle said that CrossCheck Nigeria is building on what First Draft and its partners learned about misinformation on WhatsApp from the Comprova project in Brazil, which ultimately collected nearly 70,000 audience tips via WhatsApp. The AFP’s Pedro Noel came from Brazil to Nigeria to help train the Nigerian journalists and said, “I wasn’t expecting as much misinformation in Nigeria as it compares to Brazil. But we actually had more work here.”
CrossCheck Nigeria will ask the Nigerian public to send rumors related to the national elections to a CrossCheck WhatsApp account; the CrossCheck account will share correct information back, and encourage the people who sent it originally to share it with their groups. Nigerian partner-newsrooms so far include The Premium Times, Daily Trust, The Punch, The Guardian, News Agency of Nigeria, Sahara Reporters, Agence France-Presse (AFP), The Nation, Tribune, ThisDay, Africa Check, The Sun, Channels Television, The Cable, Freedom Radio, First Draft, Connected Development, The University of Lagos’ Department of Mass Communication, and The International Center for Investigative Reporting.