On 21 May, the United Nations announced the launch of a new initiative called "Verified" whose goal is to "combat the growing scourge of COVID-19 misinformation" by essentially providing more trusted and accurate information on the subject.
As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres explained, this initiative signifies a refusal "to cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate".
"Misinformation spreads online, in messaging apps and person to person. Its creators use savvy production and distribution methods. To counter it, scientists and institutions like the United Nations need to reach people with accurate information they can trust", he said.
Led by the UN Department for Global Communications (DGC), the new initiative is going to provide data on three themes: "science – to save lives; solidarity – to promote local and global cooperation; and solutions – to advocate for support to impacted populations".
A UN press release also states that "Verified" will also "promote recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality and hunger".
DGC also seeks to "root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19" via distributing trusted and accurate content in partnership with UN agencies and UN country teams, as well as with influencers, civil society, business and media organizations.
"In many countries the misinformation surging across digital channels is impeding the public health response and stirring unrest. There are disturbing efforts to exploit the crisis to advance nativism or to target minority groups, which could worsen as the strain on societies grows and the economic and social fallout kicks in," said Melissa Fleming, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. “The Verified initiative will also work to address this trend with hopeful content that celebrates local acts of humanity, the contributions of refugees and migrants, and makes the case for global cooperation."
The initiative also calls upon people across the world to become "information volunteers" who would help share "trusted content" in an effort to "keep their families and communities safe and connected".
Described in the press release as "digital first responders", these volunteers will receive "a daily feed of verified content optimized for social sharing with simple, compelling messaging that either directly counters misinformation or fills an information void".
"Verified" is a collaboration between the UN and Purpose, one of the world’s leading social mobilization organizations, and is supported by the IKEA Foundation and Luminate.