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Countering misinformation about COVID-19

Why we invested: Verified - The UN-Purpose COVID-19 Communications Response Initiative

As COVID-19 reshapes our world, we are witnessing a historic failure in markets for information: in particular, reliable information about the pandemic and how to respond to it. Credible and factual voices are being drowned out, in part because of the overabundance of information, especially misinformation, concerning the coronavirus. For example, in a study on COVID-19 misinformation published recently by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, it was shown that “misleading or false claims about the actions or policies of public authorities, including government and international bodies like the WHO or the UN, are the single largest category of claims identified [in the study]”.

The WHO have termed this spike in misinformation an “infodemic”; a parallel and interlinked crisis that is increasing the already devastating impact of coronavirus. This has been caused, in part, by the many known unknowns and uncertainties around COVID-19. There are many questions which we simply do not have answers for – at the time of writing there are no proven treatments to cure the virus, for example – and that “gap” in our scientific knowledge creates ample opportunity for false claims and propaganda to spring up and fill the void. 

Verified has been created in response to these challenges in the COVID-19 information landscape. This initiative aims, to quote the UN Secretary General, to “flood the internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation”. The effort will be a partnership between the UN (including agencies such as the WHO and UNICEF) and the campaign agency Purpose. Verified will partner with UN agencies and UN country teams, influencers, civil society, business and media organizations to distribute trusted, accurate content and work with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19. 

We believe Verified will play an important role in tackling the coronavirus infodemic by rapidly spreading reliable, science-based information that will protect people and communities around the world.

Luminate is proud to be a founding funder of Verified, alongside the IKEA Foundation. We hope that the US$2,000,000 of grant funding we have provided can kickstart this urgent and important initiative. To scale this effort to the global reach that is demanded by the coronavirus crisis, significant additional funding will be required: we urge other philanthropists and donors to join us in supporting this critical venture.

COVID-19 has provided a stark reminder that access to accurate, trusted information can be the difference between fear and resilience, division and unity, and even life and death. We believe Verified will play an important role in tackling the coronavirus infodemic by rapidly spreading reliable, science-based information that will protect people and communities around the world.

Read more in a press release from the United Nations.