Innovator Insights – FactsMatterNG

Fathm’s Innovator Insights series explores the bold steps taken by individuals and organisations seeking to increase value and improve quality in journalism, communications, and information sharing and identifies what we can learn from them.

In this edition we spoke to Hannah Ajakaiye of FactsMatterNG – a fact checking initiative created in the year 2020 as a project of the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) Knight fellowship programme. 

Q. Can you tell us a little more about Facts Matter NG?

We are committed to building collaborations among fact checkers, journalists and social media influencers to expand the audience for fact checking. We help our media partners turn their fact checks into snackable social media videos and we produce graphics and other eye-catching creatives to make fact checks easily digestible for social media users in Nigeria. One of our strong points is working with social media influencers to get organic reach and engagement for fact checks and media literacy content. Also, engaging prominent voices and members of the public in regular conversations on Twitter spaces is part of what we do to enlighten people about the dangers of false information especially during elections. The overall aim of the project is to restore information integrity and inoculate people against misleading information about important life issues. 

Q. What inspired you to start this project? 

My primary motivation was the need to improve news judgement by empowering citizens with actionable information that they can use to make informed decisions.

I see FactsMatterNG as an extended part of my work as a TruthBuzz fellow with ICFJ in 2018/ 2019. Then I was embedded with two newsrooms – Africa Check and Daily Trust newspapers – and I worked with them to deploy digital strategies that expanded the reach of their content on digital platforms. 

With the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, I saw an opportunity to not only deploy digital strategies to expand the audience for fact checking but to also key into the growing influence of content creators to reach younger underserved audiences.  Today, we have since expanded from focusing on health misinformation to other important life issues such as elections, media literacy and gendered misinformation. 

Q. With Nigeria’s general election just a few weeks away, we’ve seen reports of influencers being hired to spread disinformation to sway public opinion and impact electoral outcomes. How do you vet the influencers you work with to ensure they are impartial?

We vet influencers by auditing their digital footprints and consulting with our media partners. It’s standard practice that we do not engage influencers who are not approved by our media partners.  The majority of the influencers we work with joined us at the initial stage of the project where we were focused on combating false information about the Covid-19 pandemic. Since our work has now expanded to combating disinformation about elections, we are working to ensure that influencers become verifiable sources of credible information irrespective of their political leanings and stance. 

Q. What challenges have you encountered working with influencers? 

Working with influencers in our part of the world can be quite challenging especially if they are not getting paid for their efforts. Without being able to offer payment, you’re left to count on their goodwill to help push your content out. Also, because most of these influencers make their living from producing content, they often come up with high rates as a requirement for engaging them for media literacy projects. Thankfully, we have had luck with the influencers we are working with as they agreed to volunteer their platforms to share verified information with their followers. Worthy of mention in this regard is Nollywood actress Kate Henshaw who has supported our project from inception without getting any financial reward. She believes in the social impact of what we do and has been committed to supporting our project from inception. 

Q. Have you had any backlash based on your partnership with influencers? If so, how did you handle it?

One major backlash we had was at the beginning of our project when we unveiled some influencers: some netizens had issues with them because of their stance on some ideological issues. We were able to resolve this by consulting with our media partners after which we came to some resolutions which helped dampened the fervour of the controversy at that time.  

Q. As a journalist, what lessons have you learnt so far working with content creators?

The market for content creators in our part of the world is quite massive. Humour videos, comedy and skits are part of the most streamed content on Youtube and other social media platforms. One vital lesson that I have learnt from the content creators we work with is the need to be consistent because you can never foretell which content would go viral. You need to be dedicated to your work and put in the energy required to improve your craft on a consistent basis. One other thing that I have noticed is that content which resonates with people’s cultural nuances tends to do better. An example of this is this media literacy video produced in Hausa language which got us over 500 instagram followers in a single day. 

Q. You’ve been running FactsMatterNG since 2020. What has been the impact of your work so far?

The work we do has been impactful on many fronts. Our model of working with influencers to use humour for making facts go viral has been amplified around Africa and taught to other journalists.

Our work has proven that humour can triumph over rumour even with people who wouldn’t usually bother with fact checks. 

Also, the testimonial from Africa Check, one of our media partners is that they have seen an increase in the reach of their fact checks among Nigerian audiences and better engagement on social media. Another media partner, the ICIR also testified to how by helping to produce videos, visualisation and other multimedia content, we have helped them render their stories in a more shareable, social media- friendly format that has bolstered readership. Also, in the run up to the elections, some of the social media videos we produced for partners have gained thousands of organic views and engagement on social media  

Q. Do you think public health agencies can work with influencers to fight health misinformation and build vaccine confidence?

Absolutely! In my experience, I can attest to the fact that working with influencers for health misinformation campaigns can deliver results which may see changes in lifestyle habits in a targeted population. In our part of the world where there is a thing such as “authority appeal”, engaging influencers with  grass-roots appeal is a sure way to boost vaccine confidence. Apart from engaging them to produce content, some of these influencers can also be engaged to lead discussions and conversations about vaccine confidence with their followers online and offline.  

We’re grateful to Hannah for taking the time in this busy election season to tell us about FactsMatterNG! If you’re interested in thinking more about translating fact checking and media literacy work into high impact social content, talk to us about Fathm Studio.