Young Africans don’t trust Facebook, a troubling indicator for the social media giant as it pertains to the world’s fastest-growing online marketplace.
According to a recent study, more than half (53%) of young Africans don’t trust Facebook, a troubling indicator for the social media giant as it pertains to the world’s fastest-growing online marketplace, speaking directly to the negative effects of “fake news” breaking out across the continent.
The African Youth Survey, commissioned by the South African-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation, indicates that half (50%) of those polled across the study also deem WhatsApp as untrustworthy. Over half believe WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, to be less than trustworthy in South Africa (52%), Nigeria (56%) and Kenya (66%), with more than one third reporting similarly in Ghana (35%).
This comes after more than a year ago when Facebook partnered with Africa Check to add new local language support as part of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme in the continent.
According to the groundbreaking inaugural African Youth Survey, nearly seven in ten (67%) of the over 4,200 18-24 year old African men and women polled across 14 Sub Saharan African nations suggest that fake news affects their ability to stay informed. Almost four in ten (37%) believe fake news affects them a “great deal.”
Worryingly, over half (54%) of those polled claim social media is their main source of news, with only broadcast television serving as the medium for which more of Africa’s youth consumed their information (72%).
A recent UNESCO report further indicates that while African nations continue to implement social distancing and travel restriction measures to avoid the further spread of the deadly COVID-19 (coronavirus) disease, false information [regarding unproven remedies] spread on social media channels such as Facebook has some commentators now referring to the new avalanche of ‘fake news’ that has accompanied the outbreak as a ‘disinfodemic’.
In addition to concerns from public bodies over the rampant and uncontrolled spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19, the African Youth Survey indicates there is continued susceptibility to the dangers of fake news, which has long been a purveyor of often hate speech and even xenophobic violence.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a great opportunity for the purveyors of fake news. As we tackle the COVID-19 pandemic we must also strengthen our fight back against the disinfodemic. While Facebook must act fast and aggressively against the perpetrators of hate, we all must learn to be thoughtful, patient, and question the source of news and verify its validity, before acting on it or sharing it.” States Ivor Ichikowitz, philanthropist and Chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation.
Young Africans are already experiencing the negative impact of social media-driven ‘fake news’. One quarter (25%), know someone or have personally been the victims of online bullying. When asked, nearly one quarter (22%) of Survey respondents thought the world would be better off without social media entirely.
Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has adamantly suggested the “…future will be built in Africa”, with the African Youth Survey’s findings reporting agreement that the 21st century will be the African century.
But the low levels of trust pose a threat to Facebook’s long-term ambitions of becoming a trusted and dominant platform among young African users. With the continent’s population predicted to grow faster than anywhere else, Facebook—like other global tech giants—eyes Africa’s youth as an important growth opportunity.
The short-term reality, however, is that misinformation is compromising the experience of using the internet as nearly seven in ten young Africans say that fake news impacts their ability to stay informed even as 54% of them rely on social media as their main source of news, as the survey shows.