UN ‘Verified’ initiative to tackle COVID-19 misinformation

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The United Nations has today launched ‘Verified’, an initiative aimed to combat the growing scourge of COVID-19 misinformation by increasing the volume and reach of trusted and accurate information.

The UN will partner with influencers, civil society, business and media organisations to distribute trusted, accurate content and work with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful assertions about the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement issued by the UN this afternoon said Verified would be led by the UN Department for Global Communications (DGC), and it would provide information around three themes: science – to save lives; solidarity – to promote local and global cooperation; and solutions – to advocate for support to impacted populations.

It stated that the initiative would also promote recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and hunger.

The initiative calls on people around the world, including in the Pacific, to sign up to become “information volunteers” to share trusted content to keep their families and communities safe and connected.

Described as digital-first responders, the UN said that volunteers would receive a daily feed of verified content optimised for social sharing with simple, compelling messaging that would either directly counter misinformation or fill an information void.

“We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the statement while announcing the initiative.

“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,” Mr Guterres said.

Sanaka Samarasinha, UN Resident Coordinator for ten countries in the Pacific, said in many countries, the misinformation surging across digital channels was impeding the public health response and stirring unrest.

“There are disturbing efforts to exploit the crisis to target minority group and foreigners, which could worsen as the strain on societies grows and the economic and social fallout kicks in,” Mr Samarasinha said.

“The Verified initiative will also work to address this trend with hopeful content that celebrates local acts of humanity, the contributions of migrants, and makes the case for global cooperation.”

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