Fact-checking not enough amidst disinformation and influence operations – Experts

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SOME experts have charged fact-checkers to develop more alternatives such as media literacy, engaging in offline or non-technological methods and collaborating with traditional media to curb the increase in disinformation and influence operations.

The call was made during a Twitter Space themed: Beyond Fact-Checking : Addressing Disinformation and Influence Operations and hosted by FactsMatterNG in collaboration with the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and TheCable.

Adebayo Okeowo, an associate director of programmes at WITNESS, stated that fact-checking goes beyond using the tools or technology. “It’s also telling people to be critical of the news they consume and having the mental awareness to verify before sharing,” he said.

READ : Meta oversight board member urges actions against fake news on WhatsApp

Emphasizing on the importance, he added that being equipped with the basic fact-checking tools is not enough as some of the tools would become obsolete as the tactics for disinformation keeps advancing by the day.

“If you’re trying to use the methods of 2022 to tackle disinformation of 2023, you might find yourself being unable to get to the truth of the issue. However, being aware of the steps to take in terms of media literacy would help us become more equipped and build a citizenry that is aware of the steps that need to be taken.”

Adebayo also stated that infiltration of disinformation occurs in most communities in Africa and they lack the technology to verify information. “It’s an assumption that when you conquer disinformation online, that is the end of it. There is also the aspect of offline disinformation which is also dangerous,” he added.

“We should engage in non-technological methods in combatting disinformation, technology can’t be the answer to it all. Build people who are embedded in the grassroots and are aware of disinformation tactics and are able to be the foot soldiers to disseminate the truth,” he said.

Speaking also on the issue, Oluseun Onigbinde, the Director of BudgIT stated that people have biases mindset and alternative narratives is the best way to combat such biases.

“If you have strong biases about ethnic jingoism, we need to show best examples where we have come together as a people, to show us that we are better off as a people. If we have biases against women, we need to show them that women do great stuff. We need to invest much more in mainstreaming alternative narratives against biases that causes disinformation,” Onigbinde said.

READ ALSO : Nigeria to partner UNESCO to tackle fake news in rural areas

He added that “fighting misinformation is like evangelism… We can’t rely on a single entity to combat it, we must all be involved in it.”

Similarly, Lanre Olagunju, the fact-check editor at TheCable added that disinformation requires multi-stakeholder engagement.

“We should provide information about things that concern the general public at every given point in time. When people have access to adequate information, it becomes a challenge for misinformation to thrive,” he noted.

Speaking on influence operations, he defined it to be an information engineering whilst individuals having open-minded conversation without the knowledge of an agenda being pushed, it becomes a trend; it’s not done in an organic or authentic way.

Olagunju added that influence operation could either be foreign or local “when we see people buy Facebook pages, change their handles, push content out, experts refer to that as coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“The bigger fear is if we don’t tighten the loose ends, we might also see a new dimension to influence operation that can be foreign. Everybody has a part to play, the police, policy makers and tech companies have a role to play in identifying the actors in disinformation process,” he pointed out.

Olagunju said that though fact-checkers push contents mostly, much still needed to be done despite the influx and strength of most fact-checking organizations  in the country.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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