Like every line of work, audience engagement or feedback is beneficial to the impact of the work of fact-checkers. At a recent International Fact-checking Network (IFCN) webinar moderated by Harrison Mantas on International Fact-checking Day discussing the subject, ‘’The fact-check connection; engaging the audiences we serve”, it was highlighted that a fact-checker’s work was only as good as how it was received. The different layers to this statement are unpacked in the Audience Reception Theory that forms a basis in predicting and understanding how audiences engage with our media products as fact-checkers. With this insight, fact-checkers understand how a segmented audience interprets content in order for fact-checkers to subsequently better defend the content or persuade such audiences.
In view of this, in this article, we broach the question we get asked so often, “How has the Ghanaian audience received your fact-checks?”. Even though a more robust scientific study would be ideal to answer this question, we attempt to scratch the surface of this question by showing a few audience engagements with some of our checks.
When we launched Dubawa in Ghana a year ago, we knew there was a gap to be filled in consideration of the confounding information ecosystem; however, it was premature at the time to determine whether audiences would come to terms with this form of journalism that seeks to make everyone cautious and accountable with the way they put information out. Whether from stump speeches, press briefings, media reports, social media posts, or WhatsApp broadcasts, every potentially misleading content was under our scrutiny for fact-checking.
Subsequently, we have observed at Dubawa Ghana that audience reception, showing mostly in their reactions and comments to our publications, has been report-specific. In addition to this, we define audiences within a context, the subject matter, their interests, and affiliations.
Therefore, we have outlined a few of the reactions by audiences to our fact-check reports so far, as follows:
A number of victims of misinformation who have stated the effects misinformation has had on them have commended the work of Dubawa in promoting truth in the society. At a recently held webinar organised by Dubawa detailed in this article, these victims of misinformation revealed the emotional unrest and public mistrust misinformation causes, thus necessitating the work of fact-checkers in assuaging these effects.
- Verbal abuse
With fact-checks that exposed the untruths of persons such as the report on Dr UN and purported affiliations with Harvard, UN and Kofi Annan, Dubawa was verbally abused with insulting words by the persons implicated in the report. However, the motivation to let discerning audiences not fall prey to such scam was enough to overlook such abuses.
- Cyber bullying
Dubawa’s report that showed that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) had not approved some textbooks that were promoting the stereotypes of the Ewe ethic group for distribution or use did not seem to be convincing to some audiences. These audiences subsequently resorted to picking on Dubawa’s researchers by tagging researchers in social media posts that were discussing the issue. Dubawa had to send a message detailing the nature of our work and showing disapproval of such actions, after which such acts discontinued.
- Semmelweis reflex
Particularly for members and foot soldiers of political parties who had sworn allegiance to their parties, fact-check reports did not seem to be enough to dissuade them from their pre-existing beliefs. An example of this was observed in comments on the fact-check report of the doctored video alleging that Akufo-Addo received a $40,000 bribe as president, where some audiences insisted that the video supported the claim.
- Deletion of posts
We have considered this reaction to be a somewhat compliant behaviour by such persons in line with the furtherance of only truth on online platforms. The deletion of posts has been a reaction particularly with content which were fact-checked by Dubawa and flagged as false by Facebook through our third-party fact-checking agreement.
In a recent publication showing that sucking your partners breast does not reduce the risk of breast cancer, audiences (mostly male) have wittily queried this report and stated that they will persevere in their already established beliefs. Going through the quote tweets to this post on Twitter, the repeated question and statement thrown at Dubawa for debunking this claim was that no one asked us to investigate this and that women were not complaining.
What Dubawa has not yet encountered is the misuse of our fact-checks, which we are aware some fact-checkers face. By this, the actors in the report mischaracterize fact-checks and use them as tools for their propagandist agenda or to further their confirmation bias. These are some of the negative effects fact-checking some claims can have, which we believe fact-checkers should look out for, and counter when necessary.
Understandably, audiences vary and such variety broadly influences how they receive fact-checks and consequently react to them. And Dubawa has equally been served with these varied audience receptions and reactions to our reports.
COVID-19 vaccination programmes are underway across the world. In Africa, more than half of the countries on the continent have either received their first consignment of vaccines or have already started vaccinating their citizens. It is in light of this ongoing global vaccination discourse that a South-African based tweet which has been retweeted onto Ghanaian Twitter timeline is alleging that the government of Malawi ordered vaccines from Zimbabwe and instead, a huge rock was delivered to them.
But is this true?
Perfectly fitting into the narrative of Nigerians expressing their frustration over Buhari’s UK travel were social media posts that claimed that some Nigerians had gathered in the UK ahead of Buhari’s arrival to force him to go back to Nigeria. However, we found that the photos fuelling the claim are from different unrelated events that happened between 2019 and 2020, and there is no information or evidence to confirm that some Nigerians have gathered in the UK to send Buhari back on his arrival in London.
A claim resurfacing on the Internet which has existed as far back as 10 years ago, suggests that women having their partners suck their breasts reduces the risk of breast cancer. By speaking to health experts and reviewing studies, we found that having your partner suck on your breasts will not prevent or reduce chances of developing breast cancer. However, it may help identify changes in the breast, prompting further tests to ascertain if one has breast cancer.
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- Polythene wrapped banku: a more deadly substitute for cigarettes?
Explainers and Media Literacy Articles Just for You!
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- Hawa Koomson’s claim on ‘fish stress’ not unfounded
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