Cambridge-Africa

Conspiracies, COVID-19 and Social Media in Africa: Navigating public information campaigns in a digital age

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Conspiracies, COVID-19 and Social Media in Africa: Navigating public information campaigns in a digital age

PIs: Dr Iginio Gagliardone (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) & Dr Stephanie Diepeveen (Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, UK)

Social media has become an increasingly vibrant and integrated platform across sub-Saharan Africa for sharing and debating information. However, its dynamism has been accompanied by growing controversies over the presence and effects of misinformation and manipulated content. COVID-19 makes understanding misinformation on social media more important than ever. Awareness and acceptance of information from governments and medical authorities is central to African countries’ mitigation of the pandemic, taking into account the challenges posed by widespread poverty, limited infrastructure and inadequate health facilities. Yet, there is concern that the spread of misinformation, heightened through social media, might compromise effective community responses.

This project will deepen understanding of the role that social media is playing in shaping debates and understanding around COVID-19 in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Through a mixed-methods approach it will, first, map out the communication landscape on Twitter, highlighting what sort of content, and by whom, dominates. Second, it will investigate the factors that influence how individuals create, share and interpret information. This project will provide a timely contribution to understanding the political and social dimensions of COVID-19 in Africa. It will provide insights into social media and public understandings as the pandemic unfolds, analysing data in real-time.

*This project is supported by a Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund COVID-19 Emergency Award

For more project updates and blogs please see our Cambridge-Africa Updates page. See our COVID-19 page for useful resources and links connected to COVID-19 in Cambridge and Africa.