How a student-led fact-checking group fights myths and misinformation on COVID-19 (IJNET)

| January 4, 2021

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When Nigeria recorded its first case of COVID-19 in February 2020, Sultan Quadri started hearing rumours everywhere.

The 19-year-old Nigerian journalism student at Lagos State University recalls the common rumour that chloroquine could cure COVID-19, which has been disproved. Other myths said that 5G networks spread COVID-19 and that heat stops or slows its spread—both untrue. Some even doubted that COVID-19 existed at all.

After a few weeks, Mr. Quadri knew these rumours should not continue. Inspired by platforms like Africa Check and Dubawa, he decided to fight myths and misinformation by creating a fact-checking organization.

People’s Check began in mid-April with more than 15 fact-checkers from seven institutions. Their aim: to correct myths and rumours by gathering accurate, up-to-date information from trusted sources.

By mid-March, People’s Check had published more than 20 fact-checks. In May, the group received micro-grant funding through Meedan’s Check Global COVID-19 Fund to continue their work. By June, People’s Check began a project to verify health information called “Verify Nigeria.”

Using graphics, videos, podcasts, and blog posts, the Verify Nigeria project addressed myths and misinformation with timely fact-checks and factsheets. The group also created content to help the public spot misinformation and do their own fact-checking. Today, the People’s Check website continues to grow, with fact-checks on health, politics, economy, and more.

Mr. Quadri and his fellow fact-checkers are self-taught. Mr. Quadri says their first step into fact-checking were introductory fact-checking courses from First Draft and Poynter News University. Later, the group also participated in Africa Check’s Health Misinformation workshop, which was offered for free to Nigerian journalists.

Ololade Olabiyi, another student fact-checker at Lagos State University, has been with People’s Check since it was created. She says that People’s Check has taught her how to detect fake news using tools like Yandex and Tineye for reverse image search, inVID for video verification, and Tweetdeck and Google Trends for monitoring social media.

Beyond COVID-19, Mr. Quadri says he hopes People’s Check can promote a culture of fact-checking among Nigeria’s youth and build a generation of fact-checkers. People’s Check has already made progress towards these goals. In three public events, the organization trained more than 200 students, journalists, and citizens on tools and approaches to fact-checking.

As People’s Check continues to grow, the group is looking for new ways to promote their work, says Nonso Ezebuiro, the organization’s growth strategist. He notes that social media and web advertising will be key to this strategy, but that People’s Check does not yet have the funding required to expand their work.

“We also firmly believe that our growth so far has been due to the high standards we have set for ourselves as a team,” says Mr. Ezebuiro. “So we want to continue delivering high-quality work [and] finding the right talent to help move us further ahead.”

People’s Check is a participant in the Data Literacy Programme organized by Code for Africa, in partnership with the World Bank.

This story was adapted from an article originally written by Sultan Quadri and published by IJNet, “Student-led outlet fights misinformation, trains young fact-checkers in Nigeria.” To read the full story, go to: