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World faces misinformation epidemic: UN

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is see during a briefing regarding the latest World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of the Climate report at UN Headquarters in New York, NY on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (pictured) is warning the world is facing "a dangerous epidemic of misinformation" about COVID-19 (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning the world is facing "a dangerous epidemic of misinformation" about COVID-19 and has announced a UN campaign to flood the internet with facts and science to counter it.

The UN 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 organisations to do more to counter the misinformation and to "root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19."

"Hatred is going viral, stigmatising 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 UN 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.

UN 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 UN recognises 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."

The secretary-general called for trust in science and in institutions "grounded in responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance and leadership."

© AP 2020

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