The Role of Libraries in Minimizing the Impact of Misinformation Across Africa

This project will use traditional social science techniques, including surveys and participatory program design, to examine the role that public libraries play in combatting misinformation across Africa. The spread of social media across the continent has also meant the increased spread of misinformation (e.g., BBC News 2020; Bright 2019). Unfortunately, misinformation studies have disproportionately focused on Western countries, meaning we have less understanding of the spread and impact of misinformation across Africa. Research is particularly lacking in remote and rural communities. We know little about how these communities are exposed to misinformation in their daily lives, what trusted institutions communities turn to for information, and what solutions might help these institutions better combat risks. The PI’s past work has shown that public libraries have the potential to be critical, emerging actors in combatting misinformation across the continent. Libraries are deeply embedded in communities, including the remote and marginalized communities that are most difficult to reach from a research perspective. Libraries are trusted institutions, and they have long played a role in increasing access to ICTs and promoting information literacy (Bamgbose and Etim 2015). They, therefore, make ideal partners for implementing scalable programming that addresses misinformation within marginalized populations with low literacy and technology experience. This project will leverage these partners to answer the following questions:1. In what ways have library patrons across Africa raised questions about misinformation, and how has this varied by location or demographic background? 2. What is the current role of libraries in addressing misinformation across Africa? 3. What new types of programs could public libraries implement to more effectively address misinformation across Africa? These questions touch on Facebook’s priority research areas of Digital literacy, demographics, and misinformation and News, trust, and information quality. Answers will be directly useful to scholars and practitioners trying to understand the landscape of misinformation across the African continent. It will also provide insights and models that the 5,000+ public libraries across Africa can use to better assist their patrons in combatting misinformation.

Grant Info


Jason Young

Start Date

Jan 1, 2020