There’s no vaccine for the infodemic – so how can we combat the virus of misinformation?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Robin Pomeroy, Digital Editor, World Economic Forum & Alexander Court, Marketing Communications Lead, World Economic Forum


  • Fake news about COVID, its origins, treatment and prevention, has gone viral.
  • UN has launched counter-attack, wants you to help.
  • Storyful founder says algorithms and human editors can help turn the tide.
  • Subscribe to the World Vs Virus podcast.

What is spreading across the globe, can be passed on unwittingly from one person to countless others, is potentially deadly, yet can be stopped if everyone takes the right steps?

Misinformation. The subject of the new episode of World Vs Virus. https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/936344485&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true

Heard of the miracle cure for COVID that the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know about? Or that the pandemic is in fact a ‘plandemic’ – deliberately created to make someone a fortune or to subjugate the masses? Then you’ve come up against the virus of misinformation that has spread around the world as fast as the coronavirus itself.

In a world where social media is increasingly where most of us get so much of our information, and where we value freedom of speech as a cornerstone of democracy, what can be done to combat dangerous misinformation?

“When COVID-19 emerged, it was clear from the outset this was not just a public health emergency, but a communications crisis as well,” says Melissa Fleming, who leads global communications for the United Nations.

With a huge public demand for information about the pandemic and the rapid spread of false information, the ‘infodemic’ is putting lives at risk, so Fleming is heading a campaign to help true information surface out of the deluge of rumours and lies.

She has launched ‘Verified‘ – where people can sign up for daily emails on the latest COVID news that comes from reliable sources: “science-based information” that might otherwise be buried on “page 125 of a PDF” presented “in formats that are optimized for sharing on social media.”

“It is front-and-centre in your social media feeds. So it can compete with the slick misinformation content,” Fleming says.

The UN is also encouraging us to stop rushing to re-post potentially dubious content, promoting the hashtag #PledgetoPause. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1318673347312603138&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2020%2F11%2Fmisinformation-infodemic-world-vs-virus-podcast%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

“We’re trying to create this new social norm called ‘pause – take care before you share’,” Fleming says. “We’re equipping people, through this new social norm, with a bit of ‘information scepticism’.”

The UN is also encouraging social media influencers to help spread real news about the pandemic.

“So far, we’ve recruited 110,000 information volunteers, and we equip these information volunteers with the kind of knowledge about how misinformation spreads and ask them to serve as kind of ‘digital first-responders’ in those spaces where misinformation travels,” Fleming says.

Image: UN

Also on the podcast, journalist and entrepreneur Mark Little sets out potential solutions to the infodemic.

He’s worked for Twitter and founded Storyful, a social media news agency that had fact-checking at its heart. He has now launched a new company called Kinzen which aims to get the best out of artificial intelligence and human editors to combat online rumours and lies.

“I’ve started to see the spread of misinformation as a global health crisis,” Little tells World Vs Virus. ” Misinformation is that serious a threat to our society.

“If people cannot trust information about the critical challenges in our world today, whether it’s coronavirus or climate change, then we cannot make reasoned decisions as a democracy.”

Image: Statista

Little says we should be wary of any move towards censorship that would curb freedom of speech but, instead, we need to equip people with the tools to see fact from fiction.

“Misinformation is happening within our friends and families. So we have to find strategies to, first of all, recognize it. And, secondly, as active citizens, just like we wear masks to protect others, we need to be the good citizen, the active vector fighting back in our daily lives.”

As well as promoting ‘media literacy’, Little says social media platforms have to ensure they are working for the good of democracy, rather than against it. He applauds Twitter for labelling some misleading tweets, but says more is needed and calls for a “root-and-branch audit of the way that information is distributed on all the different platforms”.

“There is no easy solution. The business model of the platforms, unfortunately, encourages the spread of this kind of outrageous information. But that has to change.

“I hope technology platforms realize that they need radical change to get back to the original roots and democratic promise of these platforms they created.”

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Thursday’s Daily Brief: ambulance attack in Libya, #GlobalGoals defenders, human rights in Cambodia, Swine Fever

Brexit: visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for Europeans

‘Severe’ new US asylum restrictions will put vulnerable families at risk, UN refugee agency says

4 radical shifts required to achieve universal health coverage worldwide

When nations work together, hope prevails and collective solutions can be found – UN chief tells Peace Forum, marking World War centenary in Paris

Key elements of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment

Coronaviruses: the truth against the myths

Fairness should be at the heart of the agricultural goods trade

Single European Sky: for a more sustainable and resilient air traffic management

This is how good governance can make sure technology works for everyone

President David Sassoli to visit Skopje: “Remain on the European track”

With 10 million Yemenis ‘one step away from famine’, donors pledge $2.6 billion

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

The dark side of Diwali, festival of lights

In a time of rising xenophobia, more important than ever to ratify Genocide Convention

Eurozone: New data show recession and debt closer to explosion

Boat made of recycled plastic and flip-flops inspires fight for cleaner seas along African coast

Venezuela: European Parliament calls for additional sanctions

The West and Russia took what they wanted from Ukraine

Aviation Strategy for Europe: Commission signs landmark aviation agreements with China

Meet the Seed Warrior: the man on a mission to rescue India’s rice diversity

How the world can gear up for the fight against cancer

The hidden pandemic: mental illness

Haitian President at General Assembly calls for essential development aid as UN mission shifts away from peacekeeping

Peacekeeping chief honours Tanzanian troops in Zanzibar, a year on from deadly DR Congo attacks

To Bing or Not to Bing? That is the question

Climate Change and Human Health: Two Faces of The Same Coin

CO2 emissions around the world

Can autonomous cars make traffic jams a thing of the past?

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

UN’s Grandi slams ‘toxic language of politics’ aimed at refugees, migrants

With potential to boost profits by up to 20 per cent, a woman’s place is at work, says UN labour agency

OECD economic scenarios to 2060 illustrate the long-run benefits of structural reforms

Balancing The Broken See-Saw of Gender Power Dynamics as a Medical Student

Biblioburro: The amazing donkey libraries of Colombia

Could switching between summer and winter time end in 2021?

European Parliament approves more transparency and efficiency in its internal rules

Siege of Syria’s eastern Ghouta ‘barbaric and medieval’, says UN Commission of Inquiry

Which EU countries have to correct their economic policies?

MEPs: Focus on crisis response when coordinating economic and budgetary policies

Spain locks down, Denmark shuts borders – today’s COVID-19 updates and expert analysis

UN-led Yemen ceasefire monitoring team gets ready to begin operations

UN Assembly calls on all States to observe Olympic Truce throughout Tokyo Summer Games

“As long as we work together through thick and thin, more benefits can be delivered to the people of Eurasia”, China’s Premier Li Keqiang highlights from ASEM in Brussels

‘Working night and day’, UN health agency seeks to prevent global coronavirus crisis

On technology and medical ethics

This is why coral reefs are so vital for the planet

Ahead of State of the Union the European Youth Forum highlights lack of action on youth employment

On eve of Gaza border protest anniversary, UN’s top humanitarian official for Palestine calls for calm

2014 will bring more European Union for the big guys and less for the weak

Turn toxic e-waste into a source of ‘decent work’, UN labour agency urges

Europe should make voice ‘more heard’ in today’s ‘dangerous world,’ says UN chief

From mental health to suicide: the interruption of this chain reaction by prevention

All at sea during COVID-19 lockdown? Try these sailor survival tips

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Mergers: Commission prohibits proposed merger between Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp

The Government of China and UNIDO partner to develop technical guidelines for standards of small hydropower development

World Food Day: here’s what the UN is doing to fix ‘intolerable’ wrong of hunger

European Union presents its progress towards sustainable development

One in three Venezuelans not getting enough to eat, UN study finds

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s