Cabo Verde's Fake News Ecosystem: An Overview

his study, which draws on 16 key informant interviews with academics, journalists, lawyers and social media users and an extensive review of relevant reports, documents and social media posts, provides one of the first comprehensive overviews of the, increasingly digital, information eco-system in Cabo Verde. Technology advancements and the emergence of social media have brought the issue of fake news or ‘informações falsas’ (fake information) as it is referred to by citizens of Cabo Verde, to the centre of debates on communication and the dissemination of information. Overall, the consensus remains that although the frequency of online fake news is increasing, such information remains largely peripheral. The same analysis applies to newspapers which despite having a political slant are not widely read in the country. Where fake news does tend to emerge is during electoral campaigns as leading political parties try to compromise the legitimacy of the opposition or boost their own candidates’ chances by spreading falsehoods. Covid-19 has also brought significant challenges when it comes to keeping the population informed about fast-changing circumstances on infection rates and general prevention measures. In this context social media has become the place for ‘on-the-minute information’ which has, and continues to be, of varying accuracy. The actors engaged in the dissemination of false information include, members of the diaspora, online media houses and journalists who increasingly use social media as a source for news content and those with links to political parties. Whilst propaganda is not a new feature of politics in the archipelago, the advent of social media has enabled political elites, and their supporters, to spread rumours and politically motivated messages faster than they were able to do through door-to-door, leaflets and loudspeakers loaded on cars. There are currently no restrictions to the online media space and there has never been any internet shutdowns. In Cabo Verde press freedom is guaranteed by Article 60 of the Constitution. Whilst there appears to be public support for the passing of regulatory legislation to prohibit the general dissemination of fake information leading media practitioners argue that instead of proposing to criminalise those disseminating fake news the government should work more closely with journalists and civil society to improve quality information flows and better educate citizens. These are some of the recommendations laid out in the conclusion to this study.