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Truth Tellers Report – Africa

The West Africa cross-disciplinary convening is WITNESS’ pilot project on mis/disinformation. The aim of the project is to anchor a community led conversation and a solution-based approach to countering mis/disinformation. The two-day convening was held in Abuja, Nigeria from September 14 15, 2021 with participants drawn from leading human rights organizations, media organizations, technology platforms, and academia.

The convening identified governments’ cynical exploitation of the proliferation of mis/disinformation to clamp down on freedom of expression and evade accountability. It also highlighted the diverse challenges mis/disinformation poses to human rights defenders, activists and civil society groups particularly in effectively documenting and exposing human rights violations. Internet shutdown was also highlighted as a key tactic which governments use to suppress the truth while using misinformation and disinformation as justification.

At the end of the convening, it was evident that low media literacy even amongst journalists, and civil society organizations, exacerbates the problem. Additionally, ineffective fact checking, unavailable detection and verification mechanisms, low level of media accountability and flawed content moderation by technology platforms were identified as key limitations to addressing the problem of mis/disinformation.