But social media platforms particularly represent a potent danger with regard to misinformation. “Misinformation spreads fastest on WhatsApp at times like this,” says Mayowa Tijani, a fact-checker with AFP. “The more trusted the source is, the more damage it is likely to cause,” he adds.

WhatsApp’s potential as a tool for misinformation is further amplified by its sheer popularity: it’s the most popular messaging app across several African countries, including Nigeria. Local telecoms operators have also created WhatsApp-only data bundles for users. While admitting to the magnitude of its “fake news” problem, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has seemed uncertain of how best to tackle it.

For its part, Facebook, also a widely popular social media app in Nigeria, has deployed a number of features to curb misinformation. Last August, its third party fact-checking program was expanded to include 11 African languages, including Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, Nigeria’s three major languages.

Despite the best efforts of social media platforms, a bulk of responsibility of plugging information gaps currently lies with the government. “The government has to take out all opportunities for speculation by providing all possible information,” Tijani says. “The more people know, the less they speculate.”

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