What Africa’s top fact-checkers are doing to combat false beliefs about Covid-19.
Is there something WEIRD about fact-checking?
Much of the research about combating misinformation with fact-checking comes from experiments that looked at single countries in North America, Europe, and Australia. By over-relying on Western, educated, industrialized, and rich countries — known, charmingly, to scholars as “WEIRD” populations — for data, were scholars making claims about fact-checking that would not hold up in other nations? Two researchers, Ethan Porter from George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs at and Thomas J. Wood from Ohio State University’s political science department, wanted to find out.
In their study published on Tuesday, the researchers outlined how they conducted simultaneous fact-checking experiments in four countries (Argentina, South Africa, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom) that “differ starkly along educational, economic, and racial lines” to see if their power to reduce false beliefs translated across oceans and borders. Twenty-two different statements, including two false claims about saltwater killing Covid-19 and “global cooling,” were presented to distinct groups of participants in all four countries. One group was randomly assigned to receive misinformation, another group received misinformation followed by a fact-check, and a third group was the control. Each group was tasked with identifying whether a related statement was true or false, including again two weeks after the initial testing.