Late last year, the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative helped debunk a fake story about the outbreak of the human papilloma (HPV) virus in the western Kenya county of Kisii. According to the claim, the disease was spread through kissing and killed faster than the AIDS virus. The hoax originated on Whatsapp, spread on Facebook and then was picked up by a local radio station, Ghetto Radio.
Through a partnership with Facebook designed to check the spread of misinformation on social media, PesaCheck was able to flag the post as false. Facebook ranked it significantly lower in its News Feed as a result, a practice that cuts future views by more than 80 percent on average, according to a company official. Facebook also linked the original post to the PesaCheck article explaining that HPV is transmitted through sexual contact only, not kissing.
Health misinformation is a growing problem in East Africa as social media expands the spread of hoaxes and other false information that can put lives at risk. Fact-checking initiatives such as PesaCheck aim to combat the problem.