Who is Responsible for Stopping the Spread of Misinformation? Examining Audience Perceptions of Responsibilities and Responses in Six Sub-Saharan African Countries

Herman Wasserman and Dani Madrid-Morales co-author a new paper titled “Who is Responsible for Stopping the Spread of Misinformation? Examining Audience Perceptions of Responsibilities and Responses in Six Sub-Saharan African Countries. This paper is authored alongside Melissa Tully, Gregory Gondwe and Kiko Ireri.

While research on misinformation in Africa has increased in recent years, and despite a growing body of theoretical and empirical work that considers the role of governments, platforms, and users in stopping misinformation globally, there is still a lack of empirical research addressing ways to curb its spread on the continent. Research has coalesced around the idea that no single approach will work in all contexts, and effective strategies need to include media literacy, fact-checking, changes in how news is produced and circulated, government oversight, and regulations as well as responses that take local contexts into account. Using data from 36 focus groups in six sub-Saharan African countries, we examine audiences’ experiences with misinformation and perceptions of institutional and personal roles and responsibility for both preventing and intervening in the spread of misinformation. First, we examine perceptions of misinformation with a particular focus on whether misinformation is perceived as “a problem.” Second, we examine perceived responsibility for addressing misinformation and possible solutions to the problem. Findings suggest that participants perceive misinformation as a problem if it has real or potential negative consequences and express a sense of shared responsibility among individuals and institutions for stopping the spread of misinformation.

Read the full paper here.