UN Begins Campaign to Curb Fake News

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Berlin, Germany - November 04: Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees of UNHCR, attends a press conference in german foreign office on November 04, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

The United Nations yesterday launched a new initiative to foster behaviour change and counter the growing threat of misinformation online.

The campaign, called Pause, asks digital users to take the time to think about what they share before posting it online.

“Misinformation is spreading faster than the virus itself, and is seriously disrupting public health efforts by dangerously distorting sound scientific guidance. It is designed to exploit our emotions and biases at a time of heightened fear,” said UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres.

“But there are ways users can learn to recognize bad information and slow the spread. We are aiming to have the phrase, ‘Pause, take care before you share,’ become a new public norm.”

A range of media companies around the world, including Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, Euronews, France Médias Monde, MultiChoice Africa and StarTimes, are distributing Pause content on TV channels, online and via SMS.

Major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google (YouTube) and TikTok, have also committed to promoting Pause, while indicating a willingness to scale up their ongoing efforts to suppress the circulation of misinformation.

“It is encouraging to see steps already taken by social media platforms, such as swiftly removing misinformation surrounding COVID-19, flagging harmful content, questioning sharing intentions and also promoting sound health advice, including from the World Health Organisation (WHO),” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Fleming,

“Just as social distancing slows the spread of the virus, behaviour changes around sharing will go a long way to slow the spread of misinformation. But it can only be meaningfully halted if there is no place for misinformation on social media platforms.”