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  • Four Important Tips to Effectively Verify Viral Videos

    From political soundbites  to disease treatment recommendations,  videos  have become one of the modes of disseminating misinformation and fake news. A huge amount of fake news and misinformation overflowing on the web may come in videos. The situation has further been complicated by the development of advanced editing software and artificial intelligence  coupled with the rise of new and social media. 

    The January 2022 Hootsuite social report indicates that popular video streaming and sharing platforms, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, are among the top five most used social media platforms. The report further suggests that 57% of Tiktok users have reported watching less TV and streaming services since downloading the app, an indication that such activity may be consuming a lot more of user generated content. As a result, the demand for  content on these platforms is significantly making room for more content creators leading to a spike in the production of  unverified information as well as manipulation of voice overs and graphics of videos to propagate different agenda .

    As a result of this increasing menace, signatories of the International Fact-Checking  Network have petitioned Youtube, the most popular video streaming service to take measures in clamping down on fake content. In an open letter to YouTube’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Susan Wojcicki, IFCN signatories, Dubawa inclusive, noted that the platform has been exploited by spreaders of false information. That action  gives credence to the kind of efforts required in verifying videos by fact-checking organizations. 

    Fact-checking videos can be tricky  because they come in different forms; deepfakes, cheapfakes and videos that have characters sharing misinformation  etc. Deepfake videos typically stitch people into videos that they never were part of. They are created with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Cheapfakes, according to CNN,  are videos that are altered by using advanced editing tools to slow down or speed up, dub new voices onto them or splice up different unrelated scenes together to change context.

    Working on video verifications can be a difficult and disconcerting task but it is not something that cannot be done. Several fact-checking organizations including Dubawa continue to verify several fake videos to debunk fake news.  Our recent video fact-check can be found here.

    In this piece, we provide you with four useful tips to help you effectively verify videos. Although not exhaustive, these tips have been adopted and recommended by fact-checking organizations as well as global media organizations .

     Pay attention to the details first

    Before dissecting or trying to use advanced tools to verify a video, take a critical look at it by paying attention to the natural details. The goal of this is to first check if the same video has been reported in the media already. Secondly, this helps you to pay attention to any details that may have been doctored such as movement of lips,  or any unnatural movements of characters in the video. The idea is to prevent yourself from wasting time and resources. 

    Paying attention to the details also means checking the audio. Voice dubbing is one of several ways that people manipulate videos. A good way to do this is to check the lip movement of the characters in the video to know whether they are actually saying exactly what you are hearing.

    Check for Metadata

    Like all data, images and videos also have metadata. The metadata of videos provide information such as the format, where and when the video was taken. This is a bit complicated but the right skill can help you do that.  While this may be a good way to start, it has some downsides too. In some cases, the metadata of videos shared over some social media platforms may be stripped off. Identifying the metadata works out well if you have the source file. Tools such as ExifTool can help you get the metadata of videos. 

    Use trusted online video verification tools

    We understand that this is the first step for most people who are trying to verify videos and that’s okay.  Online video verification tools such as Amnesty International’s YouTube Dataviewer or  the  InVid browser extension (a step by step guide on using this will be provided in our next article) have proven to be effective at verifying videos. Unlike Amnesty International’s YouTube Dataviewer  that works with just Youtube videos, the  InVid browser extension works well with videos from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, allowing one to pull keyframes from videos for further analysis.

    Reverse Image Search Can Help

    Yes. Reverse image search is a very useful step in verifying videos. Take screenshots from the video in question and run it through reverse image tools such as Google Reverse Image Search  and TinEye. Since videos are composed of frames, reverse image search tools may point you to other places where these videos have been shared. In some cases, you may find altered versions of them, if there is any.

  • Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful falsely claims that UK’s Digital Services Tax is about 10%

    Claim: Ghana’s Communications and Digitalization Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekufu, has asserted that the United Kingdom’s Digital Tax rate is about 10%.

    The claim is false. The UK government introduced a 2 percent Digital Service Tax in 2020 but agreed to end it in October 2021.

    Full Text

    The government of Ghana intends to introduce an electronic transaction levy (e-levy) in an attempt to widen the tax net and rope in the informal sector.

    The move has, however, been met with stiff opposition by some sections of the Ghanaian public.

    The Minority in Parliament has described the proposed tax as regressive and one that will bring “unbearable hardship on Ghanaians.”

    On Thursday, January 27, 2022, the Ministry of Information organized a town hall meeting to educate the public about the tax and urge them to accept its implementation.

    Addressing the meeting which was held in Koforidua, the Minister for Communication and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said that the government’s e-levy rate of 1.75% was relatively low.

    According to her, in other jurisdictions, particularly the United Kingdom, their tax rate for Digital Services was about 10%. 

    “E-levy is being introduced at the lowest rate for any tax in Ghana, comparatively at 1.75%, less than 2%. In other countries, digital taxes are being introduced at the rate of up to 10% and they’re paying. That’s the UK. And we go there and seek loans from them to finance our development. When we are not paying the requisite taxes that we should,” Ursula Owusu stated.

    The town hall meeting was streamed live on Facebook and the claim can be found between minutes 28:30 to 29:10.

    Her claim has been featured in a news publication on www.myjoyonline.com

    Verification

    The UK government, in its 2018 budget announced the introduction of a Digital Service Tax (DST).

    It was a 2% tax on the revenues of search engines, social media services and online marketplaces which derive value from UK users.

    The tax was to take effect in April 2020.

    The tax was a response to concerns that multinational tech giants making money in the country were shifting their profits overseas where they could be taxed at lower rates.

    Full details of the tax can be found on the UK government’s website.

    Screenshot of page 44 of UK’s 2018 budget.

    Subsequently, tech giant, Google, notified advertisers of additional charges following the introduction of the tax.

    A January 2021 report by the United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, raised concerns about the UK’s Digital Service Tax.

    In the report, it was asserted that the three categories of services targeted by the tax were areas where US companies were market leaders.

    “The UK DST targets three categories of services where U.S. companies are market leaders: internet search engines, social media services and online marketplaces. It appears unlikely that the DST will cover certain digital services where similar UK or European firms are successful,” page 15 of the report reads.

    Following a deal agreed by 136 countries to the effect that large and profitable multinational companies pay a “fair share” of tax in the markets where they do business, the UK announced plans to end the DST.

    “We have agreed a way forward on how we transition from our Digital Services Tax to the newly agreed global tax system. This agreement means that our Digital Services Tax is protected as we move to 2023, so its revenue can continue to fund vital public services,” Reuters quotes the UK finance minister, Rishi Sunak, as saying in a statement.

    Other European countries with digital taxes

    There are 15 European OECD countries that have either planned or implemented taxes on digital services. However, they differ in their structure. The tax rates range from 1.5 percent in Poland to 7.5 percent in both Hungary and Turkey (although Hungary’s tax rate has been reduced temporarily to 0 percent).

    Other countries across the world with digital tax rules have been published on Quaderno

    Conclusion

    It is not true that the Digital Service Tax (DST) in the UK is at the rate of about 10% as claimed by the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful. UK’s DST was introduced at 2% and was targeted at large companies and not individuals as in the case of Ghana. Moreover, the UK has agreed to end the DST.

  • True, Ghana’s COVID-19 death rate is one of the lowest in the world

    Claim: President Akufo-Addo says that Ghana’s COVID-19 death rate is one of the lowest in the world.

    Verdict: Dubawa has analyzed data from the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University and has found the claim by the President to be largely true.

    Full Text

    Ghana’s president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said that Ghana’s COVID-19 death rate is one of the lowest in the world.

    The President said this on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 at the opening of the 73rd Annual New Year School and Conference, organized by the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Education, University of Ghana.

    “COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of hundreds and hundreds of millions of people across the globe and it has led to the deaths of some 5 million and 600 thousand people worldwide. Mercifully, God being so good, Ghana has recorded one of the lowest death rates in the world, numbering in total 1,379 so far,” the President said.

    The event was streamed live on the University of Ghana YouTube channel and the claim can be found between minutes 1:29:58 to 1:30:30

    Verification

    The latest COVID-19 update (18th January 2022) from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) quotes the country’s COVID-19 death toll as 1,370. 

    To be able to verify the claim by the president Dubawa had to look at the figures and metrics used by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU), two institutions that have been widely considered to be churning out credible global COVID-19 data.

    The World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University have also reported that the country has recorded a total of 1,370 COVID-19 deaths.

    The last updates by the WHO and the JHU, at the time of this report, was on January 24, 2022.

    The two institutions use the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) as well as the Cumulative death per 100,000 population to measure the severity of the pandemic in a country or region.

    According to the WHO, CFR estimates the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases as was contained in its August 4, 2020 publication.  

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also listed eight frequently used measures of mortality.

    Out of the eight, the most fit is the cause-specific mortality rate. The cause-specific mortality rate is the mortality rate from a specified cause (in this case COVID-19) for a population. This is measured per 100,000 of the population.

    The WHO and JHU both provide the CFR and deaths per 100,000 population in their COVID-19 data.

    In several publications that analyzed Africa’s COVID-19 mortality rate, references were made to the continent’s CFR and deaths per 100,000 population, or in some instances deaths per a million of the population.

    Ghana’s case-fatality rate is 0.9% whereas the cumulative death per 100,000 population is 4.50, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    Out of over 184 countries/areas/territories, whose data is available on JHU, Ghana’s case-fatality rate is only higher than that of 46 other countries/areas/territories.

    If the countries/areas/territories whose data is captured by Johns Hopkins University are to be ranked according to their respective case-fatality rate, Ghana will be placed 138th out of 184.

    Ghana placing 138 out of 184 countries/areas/territories can largely be accepted as very low.   

    Source: John Hopkins University (Arranging countries/areas/territories according to case-fatality rate)

    Data from the World Health Organization indicates that the country currently has a case-fatality rate of 0.88%.  

    Source: World Health Organization

    Apart from the CFR, Dubawa considered Ghana’s deaths per 100,000 population (Deaths/100K Pop.) as against other countries/areas/territories in verifying the president’s claim

    Data from the World Health Organization indicated that Ghana’s Deaths/100K Pop. is 4.41 after recording 1,370 total deaths.

    Source: World Health Organization

    Ghana’s 4.41 Deaths/100K Pop. is only higher than 43 countries/areas/territories out of the 237 captured in WHO’s database.

    From JHU’s data, the country’s Deaths/100K Pop. is 4.50 after recording 1,370 total deaths. Ghana’s 4.50 is only higher than that of 22 other countries/areas/territories. 

    If the countries whose data is captured by Johns Hopkins University are to be ranked according to their respective deaths/100K pop Ghana will be placed 162nd out of 184 countries/areas/territories.

    Source: John Hopkins University (Arranging countries according to Deaths/100K population)

    It is worth noting that some countries/areas/territories with a lower death rate per 100K population had recorded no cases of COVID-19.

    Some of these are Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    Burundi’s death per 100K population is currently 0.118 and could be mentioned as the country with the lowest COVID-19 death rate.

    The Eastern African country has recorded 37,170 cases and has recorded 14 deaths, according to WHO figures. 

    What other data sources are saying

    Some websites such as www.worldometers.info, and ourworldindata.org also have data on the COVID-19 situation in various countries.

    Ghana’s case fatality rate on www.ourworldindata.org is 0.88% after recording 1,370 cases. The website also indicated that the country’s new COVID-19 deaths per million of population is 0.12.

    Worldmeters has the COVID-19 data of 225 countries. It has quoted 1,370 as Ghana’s total death toll. It has indicated that the country’s death per 1million population is 43.

    If these 225 countries are ranked according to their deaths per 1 million population, Ghana will be placed 185, using data from Worldmeters.

    Source: Worldometers.info

    Global COVID-19 outlook

    According to the World Health Organization, globally, as of 5:06 PM CET, 24 January 2022, there have been 349,641,119 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 5,592,266 deaths. As of 24 January 2022, a total of 9,620,105,525 vaccine doses have been administered.

    Conclusion

    Having analyzed data from the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University, Dubawa has rated the claim to be largely true.

    This report was produced under the Dubawa Student Fact-checking Project aimed at offering students in tertiary schools aspiring to take up roles in the profession the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through verification and fact-checking. 

  • Social media users mistake video of Pakistani officials destroying contraband for Taliban forces

    Claim: Viral posts on social media claim that Afghan Taliban forces have destroyed mobile phones as part of their enforcement of a ban on phone usage.

    The video is from Pakistan and not Afghanistan. The items being destroyed are contraband seized by Pakistani custom officials.

    Full Text

    Videos have emerged online, claiming that Afghanistan Taliban forces are destroying mobile phones.

    These posts explain that the destruction is to enforce a ban on the usage of the device, supposedly announced by Taliban fighters who seized power in Afghanistan.

    These videos can be found on Facebook (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). The video making the claim has also been shared on Twitter by a verified account.

    Some online news portals such as www.scannews24.com have published a story making the claim.

    In the circulating videos, officials can be seen stomping tons on electronic devices in an attempt to destroy them.

    Verification

    To authenticate the claim, Dubawa observed the uniform of the officials in the viral video to give clues as to the country or group they belong to.

    After analyzing the uniform of the officials in the video, Dubawa spotted the Pakistan flag patch.

    (L-R) Area in red rectangular box capturing Pakistan flag patch and the Pakistan flag patch (Photo credit: Amazon.com)

    Again, we detected that a badge beneath the Pakistan flag patch was similar to one that was spotted on the uniform of a Pakistan Customs Officer in a separate Twitter video, posted in September 2021.

    (L-R) Area in red showing similarity in the badge of an officer in the viral video and a Pakistan Customs Service officer captured in a separate Twitter video

    Finally, we noticed that a third badge on the uniform of the officials was similar to that of the Pakistan Customs Service in a video posted on Twitter.

    (L-R) Area in red showing similarity in the badge of an officer in the viral video and a Pakistan Customs Service officer captured in a separate Twitter video

    In a YouTube video, published by a verified channel, WION, a custom official identified as Muhammed Tayyeb, is seen wearing a similar uniform that has the various identifications mentioned above.

    Areas in red showing similar images identified in the uniform of officials seen in viral video 

    Dubawa identified what could be a longer version of the trending video on YouTube. It was uploaded on December 31, 2021 and the caption was “Pakistan Customs Destruction Ceremony 🇵🇰 || Customs Enforcement & Compliance.”

    The officers in the video were wearing the same uniform as those seen in the viral video.

    In addition, Dubawa found a 30th December, 2021 news item published on Pakistani-based thenews.com.pk about Pakistan custom officials destroying contraband goods.

    The Taliban, since seizing power in Afghanistan, has announced several laws that it says are in line with Sharia, or Islamic law.

    An August 2021 publication by US-based Anchorage Daily News (ADN) indicated that the Taliban fighters had outrightly banned the use of smartphones.

    However, a January 2022 publication on aninews.in may have brought clarity to the matter when it hinted in its article that the mobile phones of people were being checked by Taliban affiliates in what could be described as a violation of personal privacy.

    That notwithstanding, there is no recent report to the effect mobile phones have been banned, seized and destroyed by Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

    In the 2022 Human Rights Watch report on Afghanistan confirmed there was no mention of a mobile phone ban. 

    Conclusion

    The video is rather from Pakistan and not Afghanistan. The items being destroyed are contraband seized by Pakistani custom officials.

  • False, China has not launched an artificial sun into space

    Claim: Viral posts on social media claim that China has launched an artificial sun into space

    After our independent investigation into this claim, we rate the claim as false.

    Full Text

    Several images and videos have gone viral on social media claiming that China has launched an artificial sun into space.

    In these posts, a crowd can be seen at a beach filming with awe and excitement a round, shining, yellowish object ascending into the sky.

    Screenshot of the viral image claiming that an artificial sun had been launched into space in China

    One of such videos, which has been posted on Twitter, has attracted over 400k views with over 3,000 users retweeting the post.

    Similar posts have also been made on Facebook, with a caption partly reading “China’s space program is breaking records and making history. Just recently, China successfully launched its artificial sun..”

    Verification

    Recently, China successfully completed the first test of its nuclear fission reactor, known as “Artificial sun.”

    The project is dubbed “Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST)”.

    A 31st December 2021 publication by China’s official state press agency, Xinhua, reported that the test had set a new world record after its temperature rose about five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes.

    Xinhua’s publication indicated that the project was located in the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP).

    In several publications about the “artificial sun” test that was analyzed by Dubawa, some of which have been reproduced in this report, none suggested that it was undertaken outdoors.

    Meanwhile, Dubawa found a similar video on Chinese microblogging website, Weibo. The only difference from the viral ones was the angle from which the video was taken.

    The post was made on December 24 and its caption was in Chinese.

    The caption, when translated, reads “The rocket launch site, let us witness the great power of China’s aerospace.”

    Screenshot of the December 24 post on Weibo 

    Following this lead, Dubawa consulted a 23rd December 2021 publication on www.nasaspaceflight.com.

    The publication indicated that China had launched a “pair of satellites called Shiyan-12-01 and Shiyan-12-02 on board a Chang Zheng 7A rocket at 10:12 UTC. The pair of satellites launched to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China.”

    This is corroborated by China state-affiliated media, China Fact, on Twitter.

    A video, uploaded on YouTube, showing the launch of the rocket, bears similarities with the viral video claiming that the “artificial sun” had been launched into space.

    (L-R) A scene in the viral video claiming an artificial sun had been launched and a scene in the video uploaded on YouTube about a rocket that had been launched.

    Conclusion

    It is not true that China has launched an artificial sun into space. Dubawa has undertaken an independent investigation into the claim and has found it to be false.

    This report was produced under the Dubawa Student Fact-checking Project aimed at offering students in tertiary schools aspiring to take up roles in the profession the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through verification and fact-checking. 

  • Claim Ghana is the only country enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination is false

    Claim 1: News reports claim Ghana is the only country championing mandatory vaccination.

    Ghana is not the only country making vaccination mandatory. Reports from Statista, a global sourcing hub, capture several countries including Germany and France to have made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory. 

    Full Text

    The headline of a news report by 3news.com, attributed to the National Communication Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Sammy Gyamfi, claims Ghana is the only country championing mandatory vaccination. 

    “It’s only Ghana that is championing mandatory vaccination – Sammy Gyamfi,” the headline reads.

    The report was crafted from an interview Sammy Gyamfi granted to Alfred Ocansey on the Sunrise Show on 3FM, on Wednesday, January 12, 2022.  

    The show which was streamed on Facebook has garnered over a thousand views. However, the 3news.com report also published on January 12, 2022, has since been re-published by several websites including, modernghana.com,ghanafeed.com and myinfogh.com

    Source: 3news

    According to Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the Ministry is doing all it can to ensure that at least 20 million people get vaccinated to reach herd immunity. One of such measures, the Ministry says, is the introduction of a mandatory vaccination policy for travellers, including Ghanaian nationals, entering the country through the Kotoka International Airport. The government also indicated plans to prevent unvaccinated persons from gaining access to public places like stadiums. However, the decision by the ministry has received a lot of backlash from various groups such as the Concerned Ghanaian Doctors and Advocate for Christ Ghana. 

    Verification

    With the overwhelming interest the story has generated on these platforms, Dubawa found it necessary to verify the facts as claimed in the news report and subject the source of the report to scrutiny as well. 

    As a result, we assessed the video streamed on the Facebook page of 3fm to ascertain whether  Sammy Gyamfi made the claim. 

    At 30minutes:30 seconds – 33minutes:31 seconds of the Facebook video, part of which we have quoted, we found that 3news.com partially misrepresented the views of the NDC National Communications Officer. 

    For the avoidance of doubt, this is what he said: “There is no country in the whole world that has mandated COVID-19 vaccination for its citizens, and it is required that they take it before they allow their citizens to enter their own country. COVID-19 vaccination mandate has been done in Australia, the U.S, and all across the world, it’s been done. But in all those countries, including the U.S, it is not used as the right of entry of citizens into their country. It is only in Ghana we are saying that a country that has less than one percent fatality rate of COVID-19 should be mandated to take the vaccines.”  

    Dubawa spoke to Sammy Gyamfi to seek further clarifications on the claim; he said he has been misrepresented by 3news.

    “What I said was Ghana is the only country in the world that has announced the kind of compulsory vaccination restrictions that we are currently implementing. What do I mean by that? There are so many countries that have mandated COVID-19 vaccines but none of these countries require their citizens to take a COVID vaccine before entering their own country. So 3news got it wrong when they said I said no country has mandated COVID vaccines. No, that can not be true. Countries have mandated, but it is the type and form of the mandate I am talking about,” he said.

    How are other countries handling mandatory vaccination?    

    In the United States, citizens do not need proof of vaccines to enter the United States. This is captured by the national public health agency of the United States, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Countries like France, Italy, and Germany have all made vaccination mandatory. 

    Statista is a global sourcing hub, and it has listed the number of countries making vaccination mandatory. Italy, Vatican, Greece, and Russia are among such countries. 

    Source: Statista

    Meanwhile, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 announced at a press briefing that it has revised its international guidelines for Ghanaians entering the country through the Kotoka International Airport (KIA). According to the Director-General of GHS, Dr. Patrick Kumah-Aboagye,  unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Ghanaians and resident foreigners have been exempted from the requirement of full vaccination before traveling to Ghana.” This announcement was captured at (0:00 to 0:47) of a video published by MyJoyonline TV

    Claim 2: World Health Organization (WHO) does not support compulsory vaccination. 

    A policy brief by the World Health Organization indicates that it does not support mandatory vaccination. 

    The National Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress  (NDC) further claimed on the same show that the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not support compulsory vaccination. This was made on the (29 minutes 50 secs – 30minutes 19seconds) of the Facebook video posted by 3FM

    “The World Health Organization (WHO) has come out to say that they don’t support compulsory vaccination. And they are saying that even if the government wants to adopt compulsory vaccination there should be some extra caveats that must be respected,” Sammy Gyamfi said.

    Verification

    First, we need to understand what mandatory vaccination is. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mandatory vaccination compels vaccination by direct or indirect threats of imposing restrictions in cases of non-compliance

    It explains further that mandatory vaccination policies limit individual choice in non-trivial ways by making vaccination a condition of, for example, attending school or working in particular industries or settings, like health care. 

    We researched documents of the WHO and found a policy brief dated 14th April 2021 titled Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination: Ethical considerations and caveat. It is stipulated on the first page that WHO does not support mandatory vaccination but rather various countries should focus on raising awareness and making the vaccines accessible. 

    “Although it should be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not presently support the direction of mandates for COVID-19 vaccination, it is better to work on information campaigns and make vaccines accessible,” the statement said. 

    Also, Dubawa found a post published on the Facebook page of the World Health Organization on November 16, 2021, explaining the stand of WHO on mandatory vaccination.

    Dr. Michael Ryan is the Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme and in the post, he said WHO’s stand is to continue with engagements with people to drive the idea of an informed choice.   

    “Our position at the WHO is that mandatory vaccination should be considered when the health gain that you are going to get from imposing that is very clear, and you’ve tried all other measures to get people vaccinated. I still believe that the best way is to continue engaging with the people and to continue to drive the idea of an informed choice. But there are circumstances in which the threat to society, the threat to the health system, the threat to the economy is such that governments, having tried all other measures, can make such decisions”.

    “This raises issues about human rights, and it is something that the government should consider extremely carefully. And they need to be sure that the benefits of doing this outweighs the risks and that they have everything possible, to address vaccine hesitancy and other issues they feel that they have no other alternative, and it has to have an objective of protecting the individual or protecting the society or the health system. There must be very clear reasons why that action is being taken. And there needs to be a dialogue within government, agencies, and communities around these issues.” Dr. Ryan said.

    Conclusion

    The claim that Ghana is the only country championing mandatory vaccination is false. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that it does not approve of making vaccination mandatory. 

  • Fact-checkers accuse YouTube of aiding false information spread, propose four-point solution

    Fact-checkers around the globe have accused video and social media platform, YouTube, of laxity in curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

    The fact-checkers, under the aegis of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), said the platform has lent itself as ‘one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide.’

    In an open letter to YouTube’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Susan Wojcicki, IFCN signatories, Dubawa inclusive, noted that the platform has been exploited by spreaders of false information.

    “As an international network of fact-checking organisations, we monitor how lies spread online and everyday, we see that YouTube is one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide. This is a significant concern among our global fact-checking community, “ the letter reads.

    “What we do not see is much effort by YouTube to implement policies that address the problem. On the contrary, YouTube is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and fundraise themselves. Current measures are proving insufficient” it added.

    Following the spike in the spread of misinformation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms have joined the fight against misinformation. Facebook, which has long been in the fight against misinformation, said in 2021 that it removed about 18 million COVID related misinformation published on its platform. 

    YouTube has also made efforts to curb the spread of misinformation using its 4Rs principles but IFCN still believes this is not enough as conspiracy groups have in the last year been thriving and collaborating on the platform across borders.

    “In the last year we have seen conspiracy groups thriving and collaborating across borders, including an international movement that started in Germany, jumped to Spain and spread through Latin America, all on YouTube. Meanwhile, millions of other users were watching videos in Greek and Arabic that encouraged them to boycott vaccinations or treat their COVID-19 infections with bogus cures. Beyond COVID-19, YouTube videos have been promoting false cures for cancer for years.

    “In Brazil, the platform has been used to amplify hate speech against vulnerable groups, reaching tens of thousands of users. Elections are not safe either. In the Philippines, false content with over 2 million views denying human rights abuses and corruption during the Martial law years are being used to burnish the reputation of the late dictator’s son, one of the candidates in the 2022 elections.  

    “In Taiwan, the last election was marred by unsubstantiated accusations of fraud. The whole world witnessed the consequences of disinformation when a violent mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol last year. From the eve of the U.S. presidential election to the day after, YouTube videos supporting the “fraud” narrative were watched more than 33 million times.”

    The network believes surfacing fact-checked information is more effective than deleting false content as it preserves freedom of expression while acknowledging the need for the spread of the right information. 

    Seeing a large proportion of views on YouTube come from its own recommendation algorithm, IFCN says YouTube should make sure it does not actively promote disinformation to its users or recommend content coming from unreliable channels. 

    IFCN signatories note that YouTube is avoiding the possibility of doing what has been proven to work. 

    “Our experience as fact-checkers together with academic evidence tells us that surfacing fact-checked information is more effective than deleting content. It also preserves freedom of expression while acknowledging the need for additional information to mitigate the risks of harm to life, health, safety and democratic processes”.

    Proposing a 4-point solution, the network wants YouTube to commit to meaningful and transparent  efforts about disinformation on its platform, provide context and offer debunks, act against repeat offenders and extend current and future efforts against disinformation and misinformation in languages other than English. 

    The network seeking collaboration said it is ‘ready and able to help YouTube…to discuss these matters and find ways forward on a collaboration and look forward to your response to this offer’.

  • Video of gunfight in a parking lot shows clashes in Iraq 2020 and not from the Bawku conflict

    Claim: A video of gunfire on air in a dark sky is emanating from Bawku conflict   

    The video shows clashes in Iraq 2020 and not from the Bawku conflict.

    Full Text

    Following a renewed recurrent chieftaincy conflict between the Kusasis and Mamprusis in Bawku of the Upper East Region, the Minister of Interior imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area. In addition, there is a ban on  wearing smocks, a traditional and preferred wear of the people by the Upper East Regional Security Council, in a bid to prevent people from  concealing weapons for potential attacks. Tensions have further resulted in the shut down of schools within the conflict zones as parents fear their wards may be attacked.

    Following these ongoing issues, a  video has been found making the rounds on WhatsApp groups and on YouTube with 428 views by Architecture Design TV, and viewed by 1.3K people on Twitter in a post by Johnystixs on 23rd, 24th, and 25th November, 2021 respectively. All these posts suggested that the video in question is from the ongoing Bawku conflict. 

    Screenshot of the post on WhatsApp
    Screenshot of the video posted on Twitter 

    Background of the Bawku Conflict

    The conflict is a  chieftaincy dispute between the Kusasis who are said to be the first settlers and the Mamprusis who were sent as soldiers during the reign of Naa- Gbewaa from the Northern Region to help the Kusassis defeat the Busangas, an ethnic group which came from Burkina Faso and wanted to take the land of the Kusasis at the time.

    The Mamprusi settled after the war, being the minority ethnic group among the Kusasis, Morshis and the Busangas as the major tribe’s settlers in Bawku. The conflicting interest is chieftaincy paramountcy between the two. The  first phase of the conflict occurred in 1982- 1985, second phase in 2000- 2001, third phase in 2007- 2013 and finally the current happenings which are said to have been restored according to a Ghana News Agency report

    In the 2000- 2001 conflict alone, the Ghana News Agency reported that 60 people were confirmed dead, 2,500 people displaced, and 190 houses in and around Bawku got burnt.  

    Verification

    To ascertain the truth behind the video, Dubawa conducted a  Google reverse image search and found that the video was first published in Arabic by a Russian State Media RT website on Facebook on July 28th, 2020  entitled “Violent confrontation with weapons between  two Iraqi Clans.” 

    Further checks revealed that the same video was posted by an Instagram user on 21th April, 2021 with the claim that it was filmed at the presidential palace in Chad on the evening that President Idriss Déby’s death was announced but this claim  was fact- checked by AFP to be that of the clash in Iraq 2020.

    The same video was again posted by a Twitter user on 21 July, 2021 and captioned “There is a big war going on in Chad, next is Nigeria, Get ready” and was fact-checked by France24.com to be that of the clash in Iraq 2020 while making reference to the multiple times the video has surfaced on the internet with different claims. 

    Conclusion

    The video shows clashes in Iraq 2020 between the Al-Bu Ali and Al-Nawafil tribes in the area of Al-Kahla in southern Iraq  and not from the Bawku conflict. 

    This report was produced under the Dubawa Student Fact-checking Project aimed at offering students in tertiary schools aspiring to take up roles in the profession the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through verification and fact-checking. 

  • False; Ghana is NOT the only sub-Saharan African country to record a positive GDP growth in 2020 as claimed by John Boadu

    Claim: Ghana is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to record a positive GDP growth in 2020, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party, John Boadu, has said.

    False, according to figures from the World Bank and IMF, several countries in sub-Saharan Africa recorded a positive economic growth rate in 2020.

    Full Text

    On Friday, November 19, 2021, the General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party, John Boadu, was a panelist on the Kokrokoo morning show on Accra-based Peace FM 104.3 FM.

    While on the show, Boadu made some arguments to encourage Ghanaians to accept the policies in the 2022 budget as presented by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.

    Whilst touting the government’s efforts in building a resilient economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Boadu said that the economy of other countries did not perform as well as Ghana’s did.

    “The economies of other countries couldn’t perform as well as ours did. The whole sub-Saharan African countries, none of them was able to pose a positive growth, none,” he told host Kwame Sefa Kayi. 

    “Our 0.4% growth is better than a negative,” he continued.

    A video in which his claim was made has been uploaded on Youtube on the Despite Media channel. The video has since attracted 739 videos.

    The video has also been embedded in an online publication on www.peacefmonline.com while the show was live streamed on Facebook,  garnering 249 reactions, 112 comments and 8.7K views.

    Screenshot of the video uploaded on Youtube

    Verification

    Economic growth is defined as the increase in the market value of goods and services produced by an economy over time. It is usually measured as a percentage rate of increase in the real gross domestic product (GDP).

    The most comprehensive measure of overall economic performance is gross domestic product or GDP, which measures the “output” or total market value of goods and services produced in the domestic economy during a particular time period. 

    A country’s economy can experience negative growth when its GDP reduces year over year.

    In effect, when GDP goes up, the economy is generally said to be doing well.

    Covid-19 and the Global Economy

    The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic greatly affected the economic growth of many countries.

    The IMF estimated that the global economy will shrink by 4.4% in 2020.

    The only major economy to grow in 2020 was China. It registered a growth of 2.3%.

    Global trade is estimated to have fallen by 5.3% in 2020.

    A June 2020 paper published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimated that COVID-19 will drag African economies into a fall of about 1.4% in GDP, with smaller economies facing contraction of up to 7.8%. 

    According to the World Bank, economic growth in Western and Central Africa contracted by 1.1% in 2020. In East and Southern Africa, the growth contraction in 2020 is estimated at -3.

    The Sub-Saharan Region

    According to the United Nations Development Programme, there are 46 countries, including Ghana, in the sub-saharan region.

    To ascertain the truth or otherwise of the claim, Dubawa referred to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund figures for the 2020 GDP growth of all 46 countries.

    A total of 14 out of the 46 countries, had recorded a positive economic growth rate in 2020, according to data from the World Bank and the IMF.

    Figures from varied sources such as La Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO), African Development Bank (AfDB), and Statista corroborate this.

    CountryWorld BankIMFVaried sources
    Benin3.8%3.8%3.8% (BCEAO)
    Burkina Faso2.0%1.9%2.50% (BCEAO)
    Central African Republic0.0%1%0.4% (AFDB)
    Democratic Republic of Congo0.5%1.7%1.74% (Statista)
    Côte D’Ivoire1.8%2%1.80% (BCEAO)
    Ethiopia6.1%6.1%6.1% (AFDB)
    Ghana0.4%0.4%0.4% (Ghana Finance Ministry)
    Guinea7.0%7.1%5.2% (AFDB)
    Malawi0.8%0.9%1.7% (AFDB)
    Niger1.5%3.6%1.2% (BCEAO)
    Sao Tome and Principe3.1%3%3% (Statista)
    Senegal0.9%1.5%1.50 (BCEAO)
    Tanzania2.0%4.8%4.8% Deloitte Tanzania
    Togo1.8%1.8%1.80% (BCEAO)

    Data from the World Bank indicated that Burundi, Cameroon, The Gambia, and Uganda recorded a positive economic growth in 2020. However, data from the IMF and Statista said otherwise.

    CountryWorld BankIMFStatista
    Burundi0.3%-1%-1.04%
    Cameroon0.7%-1.5%-1.54% 
    Gambia0.0%-0.2%-0.2%
    Uganda2.9%-0.8%-0.84%

    The World Bank indicated that East Africa’s Comoros recorded a 4.9% economic growth in 2020; however, the country’s data of their GDP growth rate is not available on the IMF website.

    From the above, it is evident that Ghana was not the only country to have recorded positive growth in sub-saharan Africa in 2020.

    Conclusion

    Data from the World Bank and the IMF and other sources agree that 14 Sub-Saharan countries, including Ghana, had recorded a positive economic growth rate in 2020. 

    The General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party’s claim that Ghana is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa to record a positive growth rate is false.

    This report was produced under the Dubawa Student Fact-checking Project aimed at offering students in tertiary schools aspiring to take up roles in the profession the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through verification and fact-checking. 

  • 2022 budget rejected; what next for the government?

    Parliament for the first time in the fourth republic has voted to disapprove a national budget, the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy.

    This follows a walkout staged by the majority caucus made up of members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on Friday, November 26, 2021, when the debate on the budget was to be concluded.

    The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin ruled that proceedings continue despite the walkout, allowing the opposition MPs the louder voice to vote ‘No’ on the question of whether the budget should be approved.

    The majority caucus has renounced the decision and declared it void and non-binding.

    It believes that only 137 minority MPs voted on the budget, and that number does not meet the minimum number of 138 MPs needed to take a decision on the approval of a budget.

    “For the record, the acts of the Minority and the decision of the Speaker to endorse it, constitute an unconstitutionality and an illegality and should be disregarded, as same is void and of no effect whatsoever,” they said in a statement but this is being debated.

    What does it mean for the budget to be rejected?

    According to Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 22 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016, (Act 921), parliament is the only arm of government with the power to approve a national budget and its appropriation.

    After receiving the budget from the Executive, it is expected to debate it and either approve or disapprove it.

    Approving it means that resource allocations to the various ministries, departments and agencies and all other expenditures, plans and activities of the government for the next financial year are cleared to go on.

    If the budget is rejected by parliament, there will be no appropriation and in effect, no government spending can be done for the financial year in question.

    Since parliament is the only arm of government with that power, the only remedy would be that the government (Executive), through the Minister of Finance, widely consult all the relevant parties and resubmit a revised policy statement taking into consideration the concerns of those unhappy with it.

    The Way forward

    The majority in parliament is expecting a reversal of the ruling and have threatened to go to court if parliament insists.

    A senior assistant clerk of the Parliament of Ghana, Dr Ernest Darfour says going to court can be considered but that could be the last resort since parliament has two major internal options for addressing such cases.

    “Two procedural remedies immediately come to mind. The first is to challenge the pronouncement of the Rt Hon. Speaker on the voice vote after the question had been put, which must be immediate. The second is to file a motion of rescission, praying the House to rescind its earlier decision. Persons can also seek the Court’s intervention as to the constitutionality of the process or the procedure adopted at arriving at a decision,” he said.

    The most appropriate time to trigger the first option is immediately after the Speaker’s declaration of which voice won.

    With that, any legislator can challenge it on two key bases, including the fact that the House did not form a quorum at the time of the vote.

    The second option “is to file a motion of rescission for the House to reconsider its decision to reject the Government’s Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the 2022 financial year. The motion of rescission can be introduced at any time with leave from the Speaker and the House upon a notice. After the motion has been admitted, a member would move the motion stating the defects in the procedure adopted in the earlier motion and why the House should reconsider and rescind its decision. The motion must be seconded. Debate on the new motion will ensue, after which the House will vote to either reject or approve the motion of rescission,” Dr Darfour explained.

    Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Service has announced that the Speaker of Parliament will leave the country on Saturday, November 27, 2021, for the United Arab Emirates for medical review. He returns to the country on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.  

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