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Cambridge, MA


Misinformation, digital access, digital literacy, sub-Saharan Africa, social media consumption


In an event where the problem of information access is almost terra incognita, the derivate challenge is whether too much information is bad. Most research suggests so, yet very few attempts have been made to examine the digital inequalities and literacies that shape how an individual is exposed, consumes, shares, and ends up believing in fake news. This study builds upon focus group data from six sub-Saharan countries to examine how people in sub-Saharan Africa engage with misinformation. This study focuses on variations in digital access and literacy, which indicate how individuals in Africa are exposed to, consume, spread, and believe in misinformation. The findings suggest that access is not an impediment to fake news exposure, consumption, or sharing. However, the presumed news-literate individuals did not seem to believe in misinformation, except in events that compromised their moral fiber. Because of eco-chambers, news-literate people were more susceptible to misinformation. The overall findings question the notion of news literacy and whether it is indeed a panacea for fighting misinformation.


This project is a by-product of a paper series presentation at Harvard with the Institute for Rebooting Social Media. The paper is also a summary of a large dataset produced from focus groups conducted in six sub-Saharan countries. Two other related projects have been published in the International Journal of Communication and Digital Journalism as below:

Madrid-Morales, D., Wasserman, H., Gondwe, G., Ndlovu, K., Sikanku, E., Tully, M., ... & Uzuegbunam, C. (2021). Comparative approaches to mis/disinformation| motivations for sharing misinformation: A comparative study in six Sub-Saharan African countries. International Journal of Communication, 15, 20.

Tully, M., Madrid-Morales, D., Wasserman, H., Gondwe, G., & Ireri, K. (2022). Who is responsible for stopping the spread of misinformation? Examining audience perceptions of responsibilities and responses in six Sub-Saharan African countries. Digital Journalism, 10(5), 679-697.