On 23 September 2020, the United Nations (UN) issued a statement titled ‘Managing the COVID-19 infodemic: Promoting healthy behaviours and mitigating the harm from misinformation and disinformation’. The statement was published jointly by the UN, UNICEF, UNESCO, UN AIDS, UNDP, UN Global Pulse, the International Telecommunications Union, the World Health Organisation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The statement notes that COVID-19 is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected. However, at the same time, technology is also enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine the global response and jeopardises measures to control the pandemic.
As set out in the statement: “Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive. Furthermore, disinformation is polarizing public debate on topics related to COVID-19; amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations; and threatening long-terms prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion.”
The statement calls on member states to undertake the following measures:
- To develop and implement action plans to manage the infodemic by promoting the timely dissemination of accurate information, based on science and evidence, to all communities, and in particular high-risk groups.
- To prevent the spread, and combat, mis- and disinformation, while respecting freedom of expression.
- To engage and listen to communities as the national action plans are developed, and to empower communities to develop solutions and resilience against mis- and disinformation.
The statement also calls on all other stakeholders – including the media and social media platforms through which mis- and disinformation are disseminated, researchers and technologists who can design and build effective strategies and tools to respond to the infodemic, civil society leaders and influencers – to collaborate with the UN system, member states and each other, and to further strengthen their actions to disseminate accurate information and prevent the spread of mis- and disinformation.
The statement is accessible here.
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