UN chief targets ‘dangerous epidemic of misinformation’ on Coronavirus

The UN chief called on social media companies to do more to root out harmful and bogus claims about COVID-19

APP April 15, 2020
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS: The world is facing “a dangerous epidemic of misinformation” about coronavirus and the only vaccine is to reestablish public trust, said Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.

“Around the world, people are scared. They want to know what to do and where to turn for advice,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

The distortion and willful ignorance of scientific facts is a “poison that is putting even more lives at risk” during the most challenging crisis since World War II, said Guterres.

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With COVID-19 now responsible for more than 120,000 deaths and nearly 2 million cases worldwide, the UN is creating a special communications project to combat misinformation about the virus, said the secretary-general.

“This is a time for science and solidarity,” he said in a video message about his plan.

“Yet the global ‘misinfo-demic’ is spreading.”

“Harmful health advice and snake-oil solutions are proliferating,” the UN leader said.

“Wild conspiracy theories are infecting the Internet. Hatred is going viral, stigmatising and vilifying people and groups.”

Guterres called the spread of bad and self-serving information a secondary disease; to some, it might seem more like an underlying condition of today’s media landscape. To solve the problem, he said, “The vaccine is trust.”

“First, trust in science,” said Guterres.

“I salute the journalists and others fact-checking the mountain of misleading stories and social media posts.”

The UN chief called on social media companies to do more to root out harmful and bogus claims about COVID-19.

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He also said people must be able to put their trust in institutions that are “grounded in responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance and leadership.”

And people must trust and respect each other even during a time of crisis, said Guterres, calling for governments to preserve human rights.

“Together, let’s reject the lies and nonsense out there,” he said.