UN launches new initiative to counter coronavirus misinformation

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 (APP):The United Nations has launched an initiative to counter the spread of online misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic by providing 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,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Wednesday to mark the launch of the campaign, called “VERIFIED”.

“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.”

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

“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 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 come packaged for online or broadcast platforms from already verified U.N. 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.

The U.N. is collaborating with 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.