SIERRA LEONE’S FAKE NEWS ECOSYSTEM: An Overview

In January 2020 internet penetration in Sierra Leone was 25% and there were an estimated 700,000 active social media users, with Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp the most used applications. These new media platforms act as both sources and enablers of fake news. The internet has also influenced news gathering and content production in the sense that some media institutions now directly copy and paste content from the internet and other online media sources, bringing them into the traditional media realm.

This study offers an assessment of Sierra Leone’s fake news ecosystem drawing primarily on qualitative data. Fourteen key informant interviews were conducted with key actors, social media influencers, traditional media practitioners, government officials, fact-checkers, media monitors, civil society experts, and academics.
In addition, three focus group discussions were conducted in Freetown and Bo in June 2021 with social media users comprising youth, the elderly and women. A review of available literature and online searches of websites and social media further supplemented and contextualized the
findings.