The Google News Initiative (GNI) has named Africa Check as the only African recipient, among a total of 11 projects, to benefit from the new $3-million GNI Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund, to help debunk COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
The selection of the 11 recipients followed an intensive review process by a 17-person project team. An expert jury then determined the final projects from among the highest-scoring applicants identified during the early review phases. The Open Fund, which was launched in January, accepted applications from projects that aim to broaden the audience of fact-checkers, especially amongst specific populations who may be disproportionately targeted with misinformation.
“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, don’t necessarily overlap,” Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, Communications and PR Manager, Google West Africa, explains.
The Open Fund builds on support provided by the GNI, in April and December of last year, to news efforts fighting pandemic misinformation. They anticipate that the selected projects will also benefit from GNI-supported research into the most effective formats, headlines and sources to counter COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
A total 309 applications were received from 74 countries, with Africa Check partnering with Theatre for a Change for the purposes of their project. They 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.
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. It has since expanded to set up offices in Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya.
Stressing that facts matter, the organisation points out that people make decisions, big and small, every day across Africa. “To do this, they rely on publicly available information. Often that information is misleading or just plain wrong,” the organisation cautions on its website.
The GNI was established to work with the global news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Fact-checking is crucial to journalists, who play a fundamental role in supporting evidence-based discourse by listening to the concerns of their audiences, and helping correct misconceptions that circulate both online and offline.
“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,” Kola-Ogunlade concludes.
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Through products and platforms like Search, Maps, Gmail, Android, Google Play, Chrome and YouTube, Google plays a meaningful role in the daily lives of billions of people and has become one of the most widely-known companies in the world. Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.
About the other 10 selected projects
Agência Lupa 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.
Chequeado will continue spearheading the collaborative project Latam Chequea, which comprises more than 20 fact-checking organisations across Latin America. It targets senior citizens, indigenous populations and 18- to 26-year-olds through dedicated formats.
The hyperlocal digital site Escenario Tlaxcala, assisted by local doctors, will produce fact-checking content and distribute it across the Mexican state in Nahuatl via various formats, including using “perifoneo” loudspeakers to reach offline audiences.
Katadata will provide a platform debunking COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, and work with the Indonesia Traditional Wet Market Merchants Association (Asparindo) to disseminate this content to wet markets across the country.
In Uruguay, la diaria will publish fact checks and co-created content around COVID-19 misinformation, broadening its reach by partnering with trap music performer Pekeño 77 and screenwriter Pedro Saborido.
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.
A broad collaborative project led by The Quint in India will seek to source hyper-local misinformation and distribute fact checks through a grassroots network of rural women.
Univision and Factcheck.org will work together to produce fact checks about COVID-19 immunisation via short bilingual video explainers, with a plan to measure their impact systemically and reach a majority of US Hispanic households.