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Sunday Jul 05 2020
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Misinformation regarding COVID-19 is spreading faster than the virus itself: UN

In this regard, the global body has launched a campaign called 'Pause' to counter the excessive flow of false information regarding the disease. Photo: Geo.Tv/File

The United Nations (UN) on Sunday has shared its apprehensions regarding the rampant spread of misinformation related to the novel coronavirus and has said that the "misinformation regarding COVID-19 is spreading faster than the virus itself".

In this regard, the global body has launched a campaign called "Pause" to counter the excessive flow of false information regarding the disease that has hampered the public health efforts by dangerously distorting sound scientific guidance.

The UN has urged social media users to ask basic questions and consider 5 W's [who, what, why, where and when]  before sharing any information pertaining to the virus on the internet.

“Misinformation is spreading faster than the virus itself, and is seriously disrupting public health efforts by dangerously distorting sound scientific guidance. It is designed to exploit our emotions and biases at a time of heightened fear,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement.

“But there are ways users can learn to recognised bad information and slow the spread. We are aiming to have the phrase, ‘Pause, take care before you share,’ become a new public norm,” read the statement.

Taking the concern forward, a range of media companies around the world, including Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, Euronews, France Médias Monde, MultiChoice Africa and Star Times, are distributing Pause content on TV channels, online and via SMS.

Major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google (YouTube) and TikTok, have also committed to promoting Pause, while indicating a willingness to scale up their ongoing efforts to suppress the circulation of misinformation.

“It is encouraging to see steps already taken by social media platforms, such as swiftly removing misinformation surrounding COVID-19, flagging harmful content, questioning sharing intentions and also promoting sound health advice, including from the World Health Organisation (WHO),” said Melissa Fleming, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications.

She added: “Just as social distancing slows the spread of the virus, behaviour changes around sharing will go a long way to slow the spread of misinformation. But it can only be meaningfully halted if there is no place for misinformation on social media platforms.”

By drawing on research from psychologists, neuroscientists and behavioural scientists whose studies indicate that pausing to reflect before sharing can significantly help reduce the spread of unverified and misleading information, the campaign will also challenge people to break the habit of sharing shocking or emotive content impulsively and without questioning its accuracy, according to the official statement.