COVID-19: WHO urges countries to take stronger action to stop spread of harmful information

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries to develop and implement action plans to promote the timely dissemination of information and therefore prevent the spread of false information.

“As soon as the virus spread across the globe, inaccurate and even dangerous messages proliferated wildly over social media, leaving people confused, misled and ill-advised”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Guterres, who was speaking in a webinar on the margins of the 75th UN General Assembly, said that through WHO’s initiative, called ‘Verified’ and in collaboration with media partners, individuals, influencers and social media platforms, they are ‘fighting misinformation with truth’.

“We work with to spread content that promotes science, offers solutions and inspires solidarity. This will be especially critical as we work to build public confidence in the safety and efficacy of future COVID-19 vaccines.”

Reiterating the same message, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that misinformation and disinformation put health and lives at risk, and undermine trust in science, in institutions and in health systems.

“To fight the pandemic we need trust and solidarity and when there is mistrust, there is much less solidarity. False information is hindering the response to the pandemic so we must join forces to fight it and to promote science-based public health advice.”

“The same principles that apply to responding to COVID-19 apply to managing the infodemic. We need to prevent, detect and respond to it, together and in solidarity,” he said.