U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world is facing “a dangerous epidemic of misinformation” about COVID-19 and announced a U.N. campaign to flood the internet with facts and science to counter what he called “a poison” that is putting lives at risk.
The U.N. chief decried what he described as a global “misinfo-demic” that is spreading harmful health advice, “snake-oil solutions,” falsehoods, and wild conspiracy theories.
Guterres urged social media organizations to do more to counter the misinformation and to “root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19.”
“Hatred is going viral, stigmatizing and vilifying people and groups,” he said in a video statement. “Mutual respect and upholding human rights must be our compass in navigating this crisis.”
The U.N. chief said people around the world “are scared” and want to know what to do and where to turn for advice, and they need science.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric stressed the importance of accurate information,
He said the United Nations “will be in touch with various social media companies,” adding that quite a few of them are actively trying to root out disinformation and suspending accounts of people pushing out information “that is plain wrong and dangerous.”
Dujarric said the U.N. recognizes the delicate balance between free speech and misinformation, saying “that’s a balancing act that is played out every day around the world even in the most free democracies.”
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