A global pandemic such as COVID-19 can make us all vulnerable. It’s easy to want to believe mysterious sources that promise “miracle cures” or fake statistics showing the curve going down — when it’s actually going up.
Many share the information without realising it’s false, but others do so deliberately. There are serious fraudsters out there – like those selling fake COVID-19 testing kits — who want to make a quick profit off everyone else’s anxiety.
It’s important to try and combat this onslaught of dodgy information every way we can, as it can be very dangerous — with life or death consequences if it means someone not seeking care from trained doctors when they need it most.
That’s why the United Nations launched a new campaign on Wednesday which encourages people to "pledge to pause" and think about what they are sharing online before they hit send, in a bid to help prevent unverified, and potentially inaccurate information going viral.
Global Citizen has joined the campaign too — we’re calling on Global Citizens around the world to take action by taking the “pledge to pause” on their social media accounts. That will in turn encourage others to do the same.
It’s a simple change that can make a big difference. Research has shown that taking a brief pause before sharing information can significantly decrease the inclination to share shocking or emotive material — slowing the spread of misinformation, according to the UN.
António Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, shared the message to his own social media channels — in a video that starts with a 5 second pause.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the wrong information can be deadly. Take the pledge to pause and help stop the spread of misinformation,” Guterres said.
During the #COVID19 pandemic, the wrong information can be deadly.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) October 20, 2020
Join me in taking the #PledgetoPause before sharing and help stop the spread of misinformation online. https://t.co/Rj0dg5OiZbpic.twitter.com/xeX8hoisXv
The action — which the agency described as its first global behaviour change campaign on misinformation — is part of a wider UN initiative called Verified, which launched in May to share scientific research and stories of solidarity during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 is not just a health crisis, but a communications emergency as well,” Melissa Fleming, the head of the UN’s department for global communications, said. “When misinformation spreads, the public loses trust and too often makes decisions that hamper the public response and even their own lives.”
The Pledge to Pause campaign aims to reach 1 billion people worldwide through working with major social media companies — including TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter.
It’s also working with a number of media outlets that offer fact-checking across different languages such as Chequeado, Newschecker.in, and First Draft.