Call for Action: Managing the Infodemic

Source
World Health Organization

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.

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. 

WHO encourages other organizations and individuals to join the World Health Organization in this effort.