The United Nations has launched an initiative called "Verified" in a bid to counter COVID-19 misinformation by increasing the volume and reach of trusted, accurate information. The move comes at the heels of a significant rise in the spread of misinformation about coronavirus, which has led to violence and in some cases deaths.
"We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who announced the initiative, Xinhua reported.
"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."
What does 'Verified' do?
Verified, led by the UN Department for Global Communications (DGC), will provide information around three themes: science, solidarity and solutions. It will also promote recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality and hunger, said the United Nations in a press release.
The initiative is calling on people around the world to sign up to become "information volunteers" to share trusted content to keep their families and communities safe and connected. The volunteers will receive a daily feed of verified content optimized for social sharing with simple, compelling messaging that either directly counter misinformation or fills an information void.
The DGC will partner with UN agencies and UN country teams, influencers, civil society, business and media organizations to distribute trusted, accurate content and work with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19.
Tackling a communication crisis
"In many countries, the misinformation surging across digital channels is impeding the public health 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," said Melissa Fleming, UN undersecretary-general for global communications.
COVID-19 is not just this century's largest public health emergency, but also a communication crisis, Fleming told a virtual press briefing.
Over a quarter of the most viewed videos on Youtube about COVID-19 contained misleading information, Fleming said, quoting a recent study of the British Medical Journal. "Fiction is often circulating faster than fact."
(With inputs from IANS)