Governments throughout Africa are teaming up with technology titans such as Facebook to battle hoaxes about coronavirus on social media that could propel the pandemic on a continent with shaky healthcare systems.
South Africa, which has more cases than any other African nation, with over 1,300 confirmed infections, has launched an information service about the coronavirus on WhatsApp.
In Nigeria, well-being officers are teaming up with the messaging platform WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – to deliver push notifications to users with advice on symptoms and how to avoid infection.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is also making use of free advert space on Facebook for outreach in regards to the pandemic, a benefit available to public health authorities in 11 different African nations, and all over the world.
Twitter has been tweaking its algorithm to elevate medical information from authoritative sources – an initiative available in 70 nations, along with five in Africa.
However, governments and tech corporations face an uphill battle: as the virus spreads, unfounded rumors are proliferating throughout multiple platforms.
In Kenya, at least two men, along with a popular blogger, have been arrested for publishing false information about the virus on Twitter, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in jail or a penalty of 5 million Kenyan shillings ($48,000).
South Africa passed a law in March that makes sharing malicious falsehoods concerning the virus punishable by as much as six months of prison.