African government partners tech giants, Facebook, WhatsApp to combat coronavirus lies


African governments are partnering with technology giants including Facebook and WhatsApp to fight misinformation about coronavirus on social media platforms.

The need arose as to a way to further curb the spread of the novel virus which is believed could propel the pandemic on the African continent with less-developed healthcare systems.

A Reuters report said South Africa, which has more infections than any other African country, with more than 1,300 confirmed cases, has launched an information service about the coronavirus on WhatsApp.

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In Nigeria, health officials are partnering with the messaging service owned by Facebook to send push notifications to users with advice on symptoms and how to avoid infection.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is also getting free ad space on Facebook for outreach about the pandemic, a benefit available to public health authorities in 11 other African countries, and around the world.

Twitter has been tweaking its algorithm to elevate medical information from authoritative sources – an initiative available in 70 countries, including five in Africa.

“There has never been a more critical time than now for us to leverage on social media in sending out the right message,” said Chikwe Ihekweazu, who heads the NCDC.

But governments and tech firms face an uphill battle: as the virus spreads, unfounded rumours are proliferating across multiple platforms.