With the COVID-19 pandemic sparking a “communications emergency” caused by false information disseminated on social media, the UN Secretary-General is encouraging people everywhere to take a breath before sharing content online.
António Guterres will on Wednesday launch the #PledgetoPause campaign as part of wider efforts to create what the UN hopes will be “a new social media norm” to help combat the impact of viral misinformation.
The campaign is based on research which indicates that taking a brief pause before sharing information can significantly lessen the inclination to share shocking or emotive material, and slow the spread of misinformation.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the wrong information can be deadly. Take the pledge to pause and help stop the spread of misinformation”, the UN chief said in a video message recorded for the campaign.
The message, which begins with a five-second pause, will be shared on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and is designed to be replicated by other leaders, influencers and members of the public.
#PledgetoPause aims to increase media literacy so that social media users can spot misinformation and stop themselves from passing it on.
Break the chain of misinformation
The new campaign is part of Verified, a UN initiative launched in May to share science-backed health information and stories of global solidarity around COVID-19.
The UN describes it as the first global behaviour-change campaign on misinformation, to mobilise experts and researchers, governments, influencers, civil society, businesses, regulators and the media, under a single message: #PledgetoPause.
“COVID-19 is not just a health crisis, but a communications emergency as well. When misinformation spreads, the public loses trust and too often makes decisions that hamper the public response and even their own lives”, said Melissa Fleming, head of the UN’s Department for Global Communications.
“It is increasingly clear that we cannot successfully tackle the pandemic without also addressing online misinformation. Each and every one of us can help break the chain of misinformation by pausing before we share.”
Ms. Fleming added that the UN is also working with social media platforms to recommend changes.
Civil society support
The #PledgetoPause campaign aims to reach a global audience of one billion, online and through partnerships, by the end of December.
Civil society collaborators supporting Pause include organizations from around the world that are fighting misinformation, such as Chequeado, Newschecker.in and First Draft.
African media organizations such as MultiChoice and Yuvaa also are helping to distribute campaign messaging.