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Key findings
  • The Afrobarometer survey conducted in late 2019 shows that although radio and television remain the most dominant news sources, daily news consumption via social media (by 22% of Ghanaians) and the Internet (19%) is steadily increasing.
  • Social media is less trusted as a source of information – only 39% of Ghanaians say they trust it “somewhat” or “a lot” – than private and public media (55% each) and government sources (54%)
  • Although an overwhelming majority (92%) of Ghanaians who have heard of social media think social media usage makes people more aware of current happenings, almost as many (86%) say it makes people more likely to believe fake news.
  • One-third (32%) of Ghanaians support government regulation of access to the Internet and social media, but close to half (48%) prefer unrestricted access.
  • Large majorities of Ghanaians “agree” or “strongly agree” that the government should be able to limit or prohibit the sharing of false news (77%), hate speech (69%), and news and opinions that criticize or insult the president (57%). Close to half (48%) also say the government should be able to limit the spread of information it disapproves of.

Like many other countries, Ghana has been grappling with its share of fake news about COVID-19. On the one hand, rumors that the “foreign disease” targets only whites and the affluent heighten nonchalant attitudes toward fighting the disease. On the other hand, scaremongering, prescription of various local remedies, and false case counts create confusion and undermine public education efforts.

The spread of misinformation, hoaxes, lies, and false claims is of course neither new nor limited to pandemics. Fake news is as old as the concept of “news” itself, but has come into intense focus through the widespread use – and abuse – of social media.

Edem Selormey

Edem Selormey is the director of research at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development.

Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny

Josephine is the knowledge transfer manager for Afrobarometer.