“If it is circulating widely on social media, then it is likely to be fake news”: Reception of, and motivations for sharing, COVID-19-related fake news among university-educated Nigerians
Keywords:fake news, misinformation, social media, news media, Nigeria, focus groups, COVID-19
This study explores how university-educated Nigerians living in two urban centres engaged with, and made choices about whether to share or not share, “fake news” on COVID-19 in 2020.The research adopted a qualitative approach by conducting focus group interviews with participants, all university graduates aged 25 or older, sampled from Lagos and Umuahia—two major metropolitan cities in Nigeria. Participants’ sense-making practices with regard to fake news on COVID-19 were varied. One core finding was that social media virality was typically seen as being synonymous with fake news due to the dramatic, exaggerated, and sometimes illogical nature of such information. Many participants demonstrated a high level of literacy in spotting fake news. Among those who said that they sometimes shared fake news on COVID-19, one motivation was to warn of the dangers of fake news by making it clear, while sharing, that the information was false. Other participants said that they shared news without being certain of its veracity, because of a general concern about the virus, and some participants shared news if it was at least partially true, provided that the news aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of COVID-19. However, some participants deliberately shared fake news on COVID-19 and did so because of a financial motivation. Those who sought to avoid sharing fake news on COVID-19 did so to avoid causing harm. The study provides insights into the reception of, and practices in engaging with, health-related fake news within a university-educated Nigerian demographic.
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