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Malawi: Authorities fear that fake news spread on Facebook & Whatsapp will influence elections

Author: Rabson Kondowe, Quartz Africa, Published on: 14 May 2019

"Despite a low internet penetration, Malawi is worried about fake news in its election run-up", 10 May 2019.

As Malawi prepares for national elections to be held on May 21, the country has been hit by a fake news campaign which has quickly spread on social media...despite low internet access people who get online and pick up fake information...end up discussing these emerging Issues in their neighborhoods, social gatherings and in many public places and can at times even spread to people living in rural areas. With election campaigns for president, members of parliament and local government councillors now at a fever pitch, Malawians are eager to hear election news and it’s driving a proliferation of fake news mainly through Facebook and WhatsApp. 

In recent weeks, these two social media platforms have been awash with reports that the Nigerian prophet TB Joshua...had predicted that state vice president Saulos Chilima...would win the forthcoming elections. The church had to come out and dismiss such claims...In mid-March this year, a fake ballot paper which had Malawi Congress Party presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera on top, with Democratic Progressive Party candidate and president Peter Mutharika at the bottom went viral on these social media platforms again. The story this time was that president Mutharika was unhappy with the electoral body over his positioning on the ballot paper...The electoral body has been swift in trying to quash other false stories spreading...

Fake news is not new to Africa, and Malawi is not the only country facing fake news problems...Back in February Nigeria was under massive fake news attack and in South Africa Google deployed some of its vast resources to train political parties, journalists and editors how to spot and fight fake news...The vote will take place amid extreme poverty that the country still faces and the never ending corruption issues in the country...

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Related companies: Facebook Google (part of Alphabet) Whatsapp (part of Facebook)