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Call for Action: Managing the Infodemic

Sign on to the global movement to promote access to health information and mitigate harm from health misinformation among online and offline communities.

Please join the ISC by signing the World Health Organization’s Call for Action — a global movement to promote access to health information and to mitigate harm from health misinformation among online and offline communities.

From the WHO:

Since the beginning of the outbreak over a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has gravely affected our societies and economies. Likewise, it has deeply disrupted the lives of billions of people across the globe, including the way we consume, produce, and react to information. Thanks to new technologies, we have been able to widely disseminate knowledge and evidence on this new disease. However, social media platforms have also been the carriers of falsehoods and distortions.

Underlining that the world is facing a rapid amplification and circulation of accurate but also false information, the UN Secretary-General and the Director-General of the World Health Organization both declared that we are currently fighting an infodemic in the same way as we are fighting a pandemic. An infodemic is defined as a tsunami of information—some accurate, some not—that spreads alongside an epidemic. If it is not managed accordingly, an infodemic can have direct negative impacts on the health of populations and the public health response by undermining the trust in science and interventions. We are also seeing that infodemics hinder the cohesiveness of societies by increasing existing social inequities, stigma, gender disparity and generational rift.

Although infodemics are not a new phenomenon, the volume and rapid scale-up of facts, but also misinformation and disinformation, surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak are unprecedented. Owing to the opportunities and challenges brought by new technologies and social media platforms, the infodemic that accompanies the first pandemic of the digital age is more visible and challenging than ever before. Practicing information hygiene, just as we are practicing hand and cough hygiene, is thus becoming vital to prevent the spread of the virus.

This overflow of information knows no boundaries and affects our physical as well as our digital spaces. By acting together to improve infodemic management online and offline and advocating for continued solidarity, we believe that we can help our communities and those most vulnerable adopt healthy behaviors. As outlined in the Resolution on COVID-19[1] adopted by consensus at the 73rd World Health Assembly and the G20 Health Ministers’ Declaration at the Riyadh Summit, we need to provide populations with reliable and comprehensive information on COVID-19 and take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation.

The response to this infodemic demands the support, development, and application of efficient solutions that equip individuals and their communities with the knowledge and 

tools to promote accurate health information (upstream) and mitigate the harm that misinformation and disinformation causes (downstream). Fully aware of the limits of top-down approaches, we call upon the implementation of interventions that engage with, listen to, inform, and empower people so that they can make decisions to protect themselves and others.

Deeply concerned with the undermining consequences of the current infodemic to the COVID-19 response and acknowledging the great potential for improved risk communication through new tools, we hereby call on key stakeholders and the global community to commit to undertaking the following actions:

  1. Recognize that an infodemic is a tsunami of information—some accurate, some not—that spreads alongside an epidemic and note that it cannot be eliminated but it can be managed.
  2. Acknowledge that infodemic management can reduce the direct and indirect negative impacts on the health of populations, as well as growing mistrust towards governments, science, and health personnel which has fueled the polarization of societies.
  3. Emphasize that everyone has a role to play in addressing the infodemic.
  4. Support a whole-of-society approach and engage with communities in the production, verification, and dissemination of information that leads to healthy behaviors during epidemics and pandemics.
  5. Commit to finding solutions and tools, consistent with the freedom of expression, to manage the infodemic embedding the use of digital technologies and data science.
  6. Strive to make science more accessible, transparent, and understandable, maintain trusted sources of information and promote evidence-informed policies thereby fostering people’s trust in them. 
  7. Learn from the COVID-19 infodemic management practices and share experience on value-added partnerships. 

We encourage other organizations and individuals to join the World Health Organization in making these commitments and holding ourselves accountable to them by signing this statement of commitment.

Watch the discussion on the Infodemic with the WHO, the ISC and the World Editors Forum

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