The move was made known at the start of the WHO’s executive board meeting on Monday by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general. “To that end, we have worked with Google to make sure people searching for information about coronavirus see WHO information at the top of their search results,” he said, as reported by the Associated Press.
The official also indicated that several social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and Tencent were already taking up measures to combat the continuing spread of coronavirus misinformation.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus first began grabbing headlines across the world, various rumors offering false cures and claims that the virus was created in a lab have started to circulate on social media.
The latest development came just one day after the health agency issued a situation report on Sunday, providing up-to-date details on the numbers of infected persons within China and globally as well as information about its efforts to tackle “myths and rumors” on the virus being spread online.
“The 2019-nCoV outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ - an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” reads the report. “Due to the high demand for timely and trustworthy information about 2019- nCoV, WHO technical risk communication and social media teams have been working closely to track and respond to myths and rumors.”
According to the report, the organization is tapping six of its regional offices and partners in order to create a team that is able to work round the clock and tackle the spread of false information by refuting it “with evidence-based information.”
“WHO is making public health information and advice on the 2019-nCoV, including myth busters, available on its social media channels (including Weibo, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest) and website,” it adds.
So far, more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in China, with the majority of the infections being reported in Hubei Province - the center of the outbreak. Per the WHO’s coronavirus advice, individuals should wash their hands frequently with alcohol-based soap and avoid contact with anyone with a fever and cough, among other measures.