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UN launches ‘Verified’ to combat misinformation on coronavirus pandemic

/ 12:15 PM May 22, 2020

A traveller, wearing a protective facemask amid fears about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, walks past the Rain Vortex display at Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore on February 27, 2020. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations launched on Friday an initiative to combat misinformation on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic by increasing the volume and reach of accurate information about the disease.

Under the initiative called Verified, the UN is calling on people around the world to sign up to become “information volunteers” to share accurate content on COVID-19.

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Described as “digital first responders”, the volunteers will receive a daily feed of verified content optimized for social sharing with messaging that directly counters misinformation or fills an “information void” online.

“We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate. 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,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on Friday.

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Verified, led by the UN Department for Global Communications (DGC), will provide information based on three themes: science, to save lives; solidarity, to promote local and global cooperation; and solutions, to advocate for support to impacted populations, according to the UN.

The United Nations added that it will also promote recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality and hunger.

According to the international body, the DGC will partner with other UN agencies and UN country teams, influencers, civil society, business and media organizations to distribute accurate content, and work with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful content about COVID-19.

“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 Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications.

“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.

According to the UN, the initiative is a collaboration with Purpose, one of the world’s leading social mobilization organizations, and is supported by the IKEA Foundation and a global philanthropic organization called Luminate.

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TAGS: Coronavirus, coronavirus disease, COVID-19, misinformation, United Nations
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