Africa Check receives Google funding to counter COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

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The Google News Initiative (GNI) on Tuesday announced Africa Check as the only African recipient from a total of 11 projects, to benefit from the new $3 million GNI Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund.

Mr. Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade Communications and Public relations Manager, Google West Africa said in a statement that the open find was to help debunk COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

Kola-Ogunlade said that the selection of the 11 recipients followed an intensive review process by a 17-person project team.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the GNI had in January launched $3 million GNI Vaccine Counter Misinformation Open Fund for projects aimed at fighting COVID-19 misinformation.

He said that Africa Check partnering Theatre for a Change for the purposes of their project was selected from a total of 309 applications received from 74 countries.

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According to him, the selected projects stood out for their focus on reaching out to underrepresented audiences, for exploring new formats for fact-checking and for their rigorous inbuilt strategies to measure impact.

‘’The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is exacerbating a perennial problem of misinformation about immunisation.

‘’While the infodemic has been global in nature, some of the available research suggests that the audiences who encounter misinformation, and those who conduct essential fact-checking, do not necessarily overlap.

‘’Africa Check will produce a series of interactive radio drama shows, in Wolof in Senegal and in Pidgin in Nigeria, to present fact-checking in a more participatory way,’’ he said.

Kola-Ogunlade said that Africa Check, Africa’s first independent nonprofit fact-checking organisation, was established in South Africa in 2012 to promote accuracy in public debate and the media across the continent.

According to him, it has since expanded to set up offices in Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya.

The Communication Officer said that the Open Fund was built on support provided by the GNI, in April and December of 2020 to news efforts fighting pandemic misinformation.

He said that it was anticipated that the selected projects would also benefit from GNI-supported research into the most effective formats, headlines and sources to counter COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

According to him, the GNI is established to work with the global news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age.

Kola-Ogunlade said that the other beneficiaries included Agência Lupa which will provide COVID-19 vaccine fact checks to a network of community radios covering Brazilian “news deserts”, and work with digital influencers to promote relevant media literacy.

Aleteia, I.Media and Verificat.cat will work with a scientific committee and two research centres to source misinformation and create a database of related fact checks, available in seven languages, for Catholic media outlets around the world.

Servimedia and Maldita.es will join forces to create fact-checking content relevant for Spaniards with disabilities, in accessible formats.

Stuff will work in partnership with Māori Television and the Pacific Media Network to fact-check misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand.

In Uruguay, la diaria will publish fact checks and co-created content around COVID-19 misinformation, broadening its reach by partnering trap music performer Pekeño 77 and screenwriter Pedro Saborido, among others. (NAN)

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