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Calling for science and solidarity, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world is facing “a dangerous epidemic of misinformation” about the coronavirus pandemic on the Internet.
The world’s top diplomat said that harmful health advice, wild conspiracy theories and hatred going viral are hampering relief efforts.
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“Today, I am announcing a new United Nations communications response initiative to flood the internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation, a poison that is putting even more lives at risk,” he announced in a video statement.
Guterres urged social media organizations to do more to counter the spreading global “misinfo-demic” and to “root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19.”
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, not “snake-oil solutions.”
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.”
“The secretary-general is not going to be the one to decide,” Dujarric said.
“What we are doing is we will push out scientifically based information, information that will help us as a global community fight the virus,” he said. “Social media companies, news organizations are making those decisions all the time, but I think it is important that we all do what we can to fight the spread of dangerous misinformation on fighting the virus.”
Because of limited testing, different ways of counting the dead and deliberate under-counting by some governments, experts believe the numbers of infections and deaths vastly understate the pandemic’s true toll.
“The world must unite against this disease, too. The vaccine is trust. First, trust in science,” Guterres said. “Second, trust in institutions — grounded in responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance and leadership.”
Guterres said the pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services, and he urged humanity to build inclusive and sustainable economies and tough, flexible societies.
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He concluded: “And trust in each other. Mutual respect and upholding human rights must be our compass in navigating this crisis. Together, let’s reject the lies and nonsense out there.”
“With common cause for common sense and facts, we can defeat COVID-19 — and build a healthier, more equitable, just and resilient world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Frank Miles is a reporter and editor covering geopolitics, military, crime, technology and sports for FoxNews.com. His email is Frank.Miles@foxnews.com.