UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations has launched an initiative to counter the spread of online misinformation related to the COVID-19 epidemic.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, “Misinformation spreads online, in messaging apps and person to person. Its creators use savvy production and distribution methods. To counter it, scientists and institutions need to reach people with accurate information they can trust.”
The U.N. chief has previously raised the alarm about rising discrimination, hate speech and xenophobia related to the pandemic, much of it fueled by online platforms.
Melissa Fleming, who heads the UN communications department, observed that in many countries, misinformation spread via digital channels is impeding pandemic response and stirring unrest.
“There are disturbing efforts to exploit the crisis to advance negativism or to target minority groups, which could worsen as the strain on societies grows and the economic and social fallout kicks in”, Melissa added.
Melissa further said “The verified initiative will also work to address this trend with hopeful content that celebrates local acts of humanity, the contributions of refugees and migrants, and makes the case for global cooperation.”
The U.N. campaign aims to reach millions of people globally with information in several languages about coronavirus, the disease caused by the COVID-19. It will rely on “information volunteers” who will receive a daily blast of content to disseminate through their communities.
It will come packaged for online or broadcast platforms from already verified U.N. reports, data and policy briefs and the World Health Organization.
Fleming said “People are hungry for information they can trust and they are turning towards institutions and scientists in ways we haven’t seen in decades.”
The U.N. is collaborating with Purpose, a leading social mobilization organization, as well as with social media influences, civil society, business and media, to disseminate material and work with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful assertions about the pandemic.
People can sign up to be “information volunteers” or to read more about the project in nine languages.