UNESCO campaign tackles COVID conspiracies

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has launched a new campaign aiming to tackle misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. 

The new campaign aims to help people to identify and report on conspiracy theories to prevent their spread.

The Director of the UNESCO office for the Pacific States, Ms Nisha, said misinformation about COVID-19 was being spread across the internet.

As more people are getting online, there is an ever increasing trend towards the creation of online communities that trend towards disinformation, conspiracy-theories and unverified speculations.

“This has exacerbated people’s relations, fueled hate and crimes, and is undermining scientific information about the COVID-19 virus and its transmission,” she told the Samoa Observer. 

“Misinformation, disinformation and politicisation of vaccines has resulted in fears in the minds of many people and making them hesitant to get vaccinated.

“The pace of vaccination in Samoa has picked up in the last few days. But it is not the pace that would have been most or all were eager to take advantage of the vaccine-availability. This is why public education about vaccination is important.

“Under the #ThinkBeforeSharing campaign, [we provide] practical information and tips on how to differentiate facts from opinions, disinformation and how people can help one-another deal with [the] daunting amount of information that is going around.”

Ms. Nisha said that UNESCO has introduced a series of easily accessible and comprehensive visual learning resources.

“These resources help individuals and communities to learn how to identify, debunk, react to and report on conspiracy theories to prevent their spread,” she said.

“For example, a newspaper can orient people’s perception by stressing facts in headlines, instead of highlighting prevailing misinformation or disinformation.

“Similarly, when talking to a person, who is a believer, let us say, in a theory that creates doubts about the integrity of vaccine manufacturers because they want to earn more profit, it would be important to have key facts to generate an open discussion.

“These may include information about the campaign to treat the ‘vaccines as public good’, the measures that Governments have [taken] and what more needs to be done to address ethical issues [relating to vaccinations and] how the virus is continuously mutating and requires continuous investment in research for updated vaccines, and so on.”

She said that UNESCO works with Governments, academia, research organisations, and other partners to develop evidence-based research and knowledge in order to improve strategies and tools available.

“We also partner with others, including [the] media, to get correct information out [to the public].”

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