UN launches initiative to tackle misinformation about Covid-19

by Akeem Alao

The United Nations has launched an initiative to tackle the spread of online misinformation regarding Covid-19 pandemic.

This was disclosed in a statement on Wednesday May 20, 2020, by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

He stated that UN would launch an initiative called “VERIFIED”, which will provide people around the world accurate information to help save lives and promote global solidarity.

“We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate,” he said.

“Misinformation spreads online, in messaging apps and person to person. Its creators use savvy production and distribution methods.

“To counter it, scientists and institutions like the United Nations need to reach people with accurate information they can trust,” he added.

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, stated 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 nativism or to target minority groups, which could worsen as the strain on societies grows and the economic and social fallout kicks in,” she 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,” she added.

The UN initiative aims to reach millions of people worldwide with information in several languages about COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

It will rely on “information volunteers” who will receive a daily blast of content to disseminate through their communities.

It will also come packaged for online or broadcast platforms from already verified UN reports, data and policy briefs and the World Health Organization.

“People are hungry for information they can trust and they are turning towards institutions and scientists in ways we haven’t seen in decades,” Fleming said.

“Verified” will also promote COVID-19 recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the causes of poverty, inequality and hunger.

She stated further that the UN would partner Purpose, a leading social mobilization organization, as well as with social media influencers, civil society, business and media, to disseminate material and work with social media platforms to
root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19.

People can sign up to be “information volunteers” or to read more about the project in nine languages at Share Verified.

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