Story at a glance
- The U.N. secretary general said “wild” coronavirus conspiracy theories are “infecting the internet.”
- The United Nations Communications Response initiative is aimed at flooding the internet with “facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation about COVID-19.”
- Big tech companies are working to curb the flow of misinformation online.
The United Nations (UN) secretary general says the world is fighting a “dangerous epidemic of misinformation” about the coronavirus and has announced a UN initiative to disseminate the facts and science about the pandemic.
“Around the world, people are scared. They want to know what to do and where to turn for advice. This is a time for science and solidarity. Yet the global ‘misinfo-demic’ is spreading,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday in a statement.
“Falsehoods are filling the airwaves. Wild conspiracy theories are infecting the internet. Hatred is going viral, stigmatizing and vilifying people and groups. The world must unite against this disease, too,” Guterres said. “I am announcing a new United Nations Communications Response initiative to flood the internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation — a poison that is putting even more lives at risk.”
As the world fights #COVID19, we are also fighting an epidemic of harmful falsehoods & lies.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 14, 2020
I'm announcing a new @UN Communications Response initiative to spread facts & science, countering the scourge of misinformation - a poison putting more lives at risk. pic.twitter.com/3S8KZDjbcb
As the coronavirus continues to spread, conspiracy theories are flooding the internet, spreading unfounded claims online about the outbreak. This is coming despite tech companies’ recent actions to curb the spread of misinformation about COVID-19.
Google recently announced it would provide millions of dollars for fact-checkers, news organizations and nonprofits around the world to track and expose misinformation. Twitter last month said it would remove any coronavirus-related posts that promoted fake treatment techniques, denied expert recommendations or falsely claimed to represent government authorities. Facebook is also spending $100 million to support the news industry and increase fact-checking.
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Despite all that, misinformation has thrived online, including conspiracy theories that 5G is somehow linked to the coronavirus, prompting attacks on 5G infrastructure in places like the United Kingdom.
Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates, whose foundation has pledged millions of dollars towards fighting the pandemic and is manufacturing potential vaccines, has been the recent target of conspiracy theories online. Notably, many falsely claim he’s plotting to use COVID-19 testing and a future vaccine to track people with microchips.
Other false claims include rumors the virus is a biological weapon that was made in a lab and that vitamin C, bleach and other supplements can cure the disease.
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