FESOJ Takes Initiative To Fight Fake News & Disinformation
The Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) is pleased to launch the Disinformation Lab – a research and resource center to combat the spread of misinformation, fake news, propaganda and online disinformation campaigns. The Disinformation Lab in partnership with the Somali media fraternitywill monitorand debunkfalse news, media manipulation, news distortion and hate speech in online media and social media platforms. FESOJ is also pleased to announce that Mohamed Abdimalik, journalist and media researcher who isspecialized in data and digital investigationshas joined us to take the helm of the new initiative. Under his leadership, thenew lab will also benefit from close collaboration and insights of local media outlets, journalists, academic, civil society and research institutions. “Disinformation Lab will detect, analyze and fight misinformation and other harmful online information” explainedthe Labs’ manager and lead researcher, Abdimalik. “Our aim is to build disinformation resilience of both local news producers and consumers through education and awareness.” The rise of social media use in Somalia has brought about an increasing pollution of the information environment. Unsuspecting news consumers often face misleading, toxic conspiracies, hoaxes and false content intended to confuse and polarize communities. Fake news and rumors surrounding COVID-19 has put millions of Somalis in harm’s way. According to a VoA news report in May, only less than a half of the 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine delivered to Somalia had been used so far. The slow uptake has been attributed to “cultural myths and misinformation”. ‘Given the imminent elections, we are already seeing a huge and serious spike in social media misinformation campaigns” said Farah Nur, FESOJ’s Secretary General who was speaking at the launch event. ‘What is really worrying is that prominent media personalities are now openly creating and pushing fake stories online, stories with the potential to stir inter-clan and political violence.” One of the main objectives of the Disinformation Lab will be to equip Somali journalists and media workers with the digital tools, knowledge, skills and ethical standards to verify, fact-check and sort fake news and content from authentic ones in real-time fashion. Abadir Abdulkadir Elmi, FESOJ Chairman, said “The initiative is the first research lab in Somalia to directly address and counter misinformation by building awareness and capacity for action.” FESOJ is committed to media freedoms in Somaliaincluding nurturingindependent and free media environment trusted by the public,devoid of manipulation and misuse by state and non-state actors. In this regard, the new resource center will also build the competency of the Somali public in media and information literacy and support innovative partnerships with concerned citizens to stop the spread of fake news in Somalia.