Giving Compass' Take:

• Sarah Alaoui at United Nations Foundation writes how along with leading the global fight against COVID-19, the World Health Organization is also investing time and resources to tackle the rapid spread of misinformation, rumors, and conspiracy theories about the virus.

• Why is it crucial to dispel false narratives about the COVID-19 virus? How can donors amplify these efforts to stop misinformation? 

• Read how information literacy can help tackle COVID misinformation. 

Soon after the world started getting used to the terms “coronavirus” and “COVID-19,” the World Health Organization (WHO) coined another word: “infodemic” — an overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news, images, and videos. Like the virus, it is highly contagious and grows exponentially. It also complicates COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.

“We’re not just battling the virus,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response.”

Proliferating misinformation — even when the content is, in a best-case scenario, harmless — can have serious and even social and lethal health ramifications in the context of a global pandemic. In some countries, rumors about impending food scarcity prompted people to stockpile supplies early on in the epidemic and caused actual shortages. In the United States, an Arizona man died after ingesting a fish tank cleaning product containing chloroquine after hearing President Donald Trump tout a related drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a possible COVID-19 treatment. In Iran, hundreds died after drinking methanol alcohol that social media messages said had cured others of the coronavirus. This is the kind of dangerous misinformation that WHO is most worried about.

Read the full article about stopping misinformation on COVID-19 by Sarah Alaoui at United Nations Foundation.