A year in fake news and its political impact in Africa
Over the past year, several high-profile fake news stories stormed across various African countries, impacting elections, economics, and culture. In one instance in Nigeria, a fake Twitter account under the name of an opposition candidate posted a thank you letter to the “Association of Nigerian Gay Men” for their endorsement of his campaign. Picked up by blogs and then two large newspapers, the story spread quickly before it was debunked and led conservative Muslim and Christian leaders to encourage their followers to avoid the candidate. In Somalia, a broadcast by the Ethiopian Satellite Television station claimed to show ethnic Oromos in Ethiopia’s Oromia region pushing the dead bodies of ethnic Somalis into a pit. The subsequent backlash saw deadly attacks against Oromos in Djibouti and Somalia before it was found that the video and its audio had been altered to make it misleading and had also been used as “footage” of the ongoing conflict in Cameroon. Fake news remains a challenge around the world, although it has taken different forms as it adjusts to the specifics of different environments. In Africa, one leading risk is the destruction of free press and journalism by leaders claiming to crack down on fake news.