On Monday, 3rd July 2023, residents of Port Loko City found themselves in a state of panic after a video circulated on social media, allegedly urging Sierra Leoneans to observe a sit-at-home order.
The video, uploaded by an unknown individual, caused widespread confusion and led to the closure of many shops and empty marketplaces in the area.
As the situation unfolded, journalists from Awoko Newspaper visited the Kondato market to gauge the impact of the rumors. The market, which is usually bustling with activity, was notably deserted.
In a conversation with a customer, one of the few market women present shared her confusion regarding the situation.
“Rumors are circulating on social media that we are supposed to stay at home today, but when I asked for the reason behind it, there was no clear answer,” she disclosed.
“I decided to come and do my business today because I did not hear any official announcement regarding a sit-at-home order on the radio. Some of us rely on daily sales to survive,” she added.
Abdul Koroma, a customer at the market, expressed concern about the impact of the misinformation spread through social media.
“My wife is also a trader in this market. She is afraid to come and do her business today due to the rumors circulating on social media,” Koroma explained. “As you can see, only a few market women are here today. This misinformation has also led to a surge in the prices of local commodities, as some traders take advantage of the situation. I urge all Sierra Leoneans to verify any information they come across on social media, especially on platforms like WhatsApp. Some people are misusing these apps for their selfish interests,” he advised.
The effects of the rumors were not limited to the marketplaces alone. In Northwestern City, there was a notable decrease in the number of motorbikes seen on the streets, further highlighting the impact of the misinformation.
Authorities in Sierra Leone have yet to issue an official statement regarding the alleged sit-at-home order. The spread of false information on social media platforms has become a growing concern, as it has the potential to disrupt daily life and cause unnecessary panic among citizens. The incident serves as a reminder for individuals to exercise caution and verify information from credible sources before reacting or sharing it with others.
As investigations into the origins of the video and the motives behind its dissemination continue, the government and law enforcement agencies are working to address the issue of misinformation. Efforts are being made to promote media literacy and educate citizens about the importance of critically evaluating information received through social media channels.
In the meantime, residents of Port Loko City and other areas affected by the rumors are urged to remain calm and rely on verified sources of information. It is essential to exercise caution when consuming information from social media and take steps to prevent the spread of false or misleading content that can negatively impact society.