Even with the abundance of scientific facts surrounding COVID-19, false information & confusion still persists, particularly on social media & other online platforms. Only 3 in 10 Kenyans feel adequately prepared to handle the disease in the event of infection. This knowledge gap has made many Kenyans hungry for information.
According to a recent report by Ajua in Kenya, 60% of Kenyans trust Television stations as a channel of communication regarding the CoronaVirus; while only 20% trust Social Media. The government, therefore, should take advantage of such a powerful platform to inform and educate the public with credible information during this time.
This communication needs to be frequent and up to date. If this doesn’t happen, many Kenyans will rely on social media for truth and the effects can be catastrophic.
Take India for example;
With 400 million Indians on WhatsApp, the platform has made it difficult to fight misinformation. Distorted truth about COVID-19 has been spreading like wildfire in groups & private chats. This has led to growing tensions and panic, which saw the country’s stock exchange plunged to its lowest in almost a decade. This led the Indian PM, Narendra Modi, to make a public appeal to all citizens to refrain from sharing rumors & unverified information.
India is not alone in this. Videos, Images & Texts of false information around COVID-19 have gone viral globally, to the extent that in countries such as Kenya, individuals found spreading propaganda are being arrested & persecuted. Most recently a popular blogger was fined KES. 50,000 by the Kenyan courts and banned from publishing any information regarding COVID-19 and its spread.
For a country like Kenya to effectively curb the spread of misinformation both local authorities and members of the public have a role to play. Apart from cracking down on individuals spreading false rumors in a timely manner, the government can also give regular updates through televised news conferences. This gives Kenyans confidence that the information they’re receiving is genuine.
Members of the public also need to consume social media content with a bit of skepticism, especially when originating from an unverified source. If unsure of the information received, they should refrain from sharing it with someone else.
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