“In this health crisis we are seeing that social media helps us stay connected. But there’s a downside: it can spread speech that is hateful, deceitful and harmful."
Thorning-Schmidt
(CEO of Save the Children)

Access to reliable information about Covid-19 is vitally important for all citizens. Many citizens use social media to stay informed, also about the Covd-19; but fake news is jeopardising their access to reliable information.

Fake news about health information has been spread from time immemorial. The prominent virologistAb Osterhausonce replied to a question from a journalist about whether conspiracy theorists were a new phenomenon or whether at the time of the Mexican flu epidemic people were also afraid that Bill Gates was implanting them with nanochips via the vaccine: “As far as vaccinations are concerned, these conspiracy theories go all the way back to the 18th century, when the British physician Edward Jenner invented the first vaccine (against smallpox). The cartoons from that era are fantastic and show Jenner vaccinating someone, while surrounded by all kinds of vaccinated people who have grown cow’s ears and cow’s legs.”

Who is the toolkit for?

The toolkit is not only intended for use by government institutions but also senior citizen organisations, the RIVM National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands, the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, the WHO, hospitals and patient organisations, and by citizens who want to know how to guard against Covid-19 fake news.

The WHO, Ministries of Health, Ministries of Education can use the toolkit to combat Covid-19 fake news on behalf of citizens in the broadest sense of the word through the implementation of   via ➡️ legal, educational and technological measures.      Primary and secondary schools and universities can reach young people, and senior citizen associations older people by providing training and tips on their websites to teach their audiences how to recognise reliable online Covid-19 information.  The same goes for patient organisations and hospitals in regard to patients: Patient portals offer an excellent means through which to draw patients’ attention to inaccurate online Covid-19 information and to point them toward information they can trust and rely on. Factcheck: ‘Willen windmolens aan onze energievraag voldoen, dan moeten we heel Nederland volbouwen’ – De Correspondent  .

➡️ A collaboration with the fact checkers from Leiden University (https://nieuwscheckers.nl/) (https://nieuwscheckers.nl/) and Fact- Checking – Duke Reporters’ Lab (reporterslab.org) could be considered ➡️ see more at the educational measures in this toolkit.   

The information in this toolkit can obviously also be used to provide tips to the general public on Covid-19 dashboards, websites and patient portals, as well as to specific target groups such as old people, young people and patients. In this way, they can learn to recognise reliable digital information about the Covid-19: information they can use to prevent or to recover from an infection with the coronavirus.

EU actions to combat Covid-19 disinformation


 

“Getting the facts right

 
The coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a massive wave of false and misleading information, attempts by foreign actors to influence domestic debates in the EU, breeding on the fertile ground of people’s most basic anxieties and the rapidly changing news cycle. Misleading healthcare information, dangerous hoaxes with false claims conspiracy theories and consumer fraud endanger public health.


The European Union and its Member States are determined to counter efforts by actors who try to exploit the crisis and put citizens’ lives at risk, or who spread propaganda or hatred. Building on the 2018 action plan against disinformation, this calls for more coordinated action, in line with our democratic values.


 In a Joint Communication, the European Commission and the High Representative propose concrete actions for a stronger and more resilient EU. They will feed into future EU work on disinformation, notably the European democracy action plan, as well as the Digital Services Act. 


The crisis has become a test case showing how the EU and its democratic societies deal with the disinformation challenge. Several aspects are key for a stronger and more resilient EU.“


Tackling coronavirus disinformation | European Commission (europa.eu)

    

➡️ EU Measures against Covid-19 desinformation
EEAS SPECIAL REPORT UPDATE: Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation Around the COVID-19 Pandemic (UPDATE DECEMBER 2020 - APRIL 2021) - EU vs DISINFORMATION


“Disinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic, measures taken to contain it and vaccine roll-out campaigns continues to be significant. Since our last special report, issued in December 2020 (…), the roll-out of different vaccines gained momentum in many countries around the world, and in conjunction with this, vaccine-related disinformation increased and contributed to spreading fear and mistrust in any type of vaccine.


In parallel to the vaccine roll-outs, the vaccines themselves have become commodities in global public diplomacy and the national promotion of locally-produced vaccines has accelerated. As our analysis documents, since the beginning of 2021 state-sponsored disinformation also intensified, targeting in particular Western-developed vaccines. “Vaccine diplomacy” has fully replaced “mask diplomacy”.


The EU and individual Member States, have also been the targets of disinformation related to the handling of public health measures. The fact that COVID-19 cases continue to rise (which is reported to the public in a trustworthy fashion), is being twisted into disinformation attacking the EU’s response to the pandemic and cast as a failure of democracies and open societies . (…)”


EEAS SPECIAL REPORT UPDATE: Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation Around the COVID-19 Pandemic (UPDATE DECEMBER 2020 - APRIL 2021) - EU vs DISINFORMATION


👁 See also: Action Plan against Disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu)


and the report that the Europese Commissie published in: A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation. Report of the independent High level Group on fake news and online disinformation


A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation - Publications Office of the EU (europa.eu)


For more information about the EU code of practice on disinformation, see: Code of Practice on Disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)


Rapid Alert System “The concept of a Rapid Alert System first emerged in the Action Plan against Disinformation (JOIN(2018)0036) of 5 December 2018 and the mechanism was finally set up in March 2019. One year later, Commissioner Věra Jourová stated that the system had been used for the first time to combat disinformation related to COVID-19. (…)” The EU’s Rapid Alert System against disinformation and how it functions (europa.eu) 

 


➡️European Democracy Action Plan


“Standing up to challenges to our democratic systems from rising extremism and perceived distance between people and politicians, the Action Plan sets out measures to promote free and fair elections, strengthen media freedom and counter disinformation. More concretely, the Commission will propose legal action on political advertising that will address the sponsors of paid content and production and distribution channels, including online platforms, advertisers and political consultancies, clarifying their respective responsibilities. (…)” European Democracy Action Plan (europa.eu)


“Since 2015, the European Union has set out and is actively implementing concrete measures to address disinformation, protect its democratic systems and public debates. (…)” Countering disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu)


“The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act encompass a single set of new rules applicable across the whole EU to create a safer and more open digital space. (…)” The Digital Services Act package | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)

 


➡️ EU Measures against Covid-19 desinformation


EEAS SPECIAL REPORT UPDATE (december 2020 – april 2021)

“Disinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic, measures taken to contain it and vaccine roll-out campaigns continues to be significant. Since our last special report, issued in December 2020 (…), the roll-out of different vaccines gained momentum in many countries around the world, and in conjunction with this, vaccine-related disinformation increased and contributed to spreading fear and mistrust in any type of vaccine.

In parallel to the vaccine roll-outs, the vaccines themselves have become commodities in global public diplomacy and the national promotion of locally-produced vaccines has accelerated. As our analysis documents, since the beginning of 2021 state-sponsored disinformation also intensified, targeting in particular Western-developed vaccines. “Vaccine diplomacy” has fully replaced “mask diplomacy”.

The EU and individual Member States, have also been the targets of disinformation related to the handling of public health measures. The fact that COVID-19 cases continue to rise (which is reported to the public in a trustworthy fashion), is being twisted into disinformation attacking the EU’s response to the pandemic and cast as a failure of democracies and open societies . (…)”

EEAS SPECIAL REPORT UPDATE: Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation Around the COVID-19 Pandemic (UPDATE DECEMBER 2020 - APRIL 2021) - EU vs DISINFORMATION


Disinformation is a major challenge for European democracies and societies, and the Union needs to address it while being true to European values and freedoms. Disinformation undermines the trust of citizens in democracy and democratic institutions. Disinformation also contributes to the polarisation of public views and interferes in the democratic decisionmaking processes. It can also be used to undermine the European project.

👁 See also: Action Plan against Disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu) 


👁 See also the report that the European Commission published in: A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation. Report of the independent High level Group on fake news and online disinformation 

A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation - Publications Office of the EU (europa.eu)


https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/study-assessment-implementation-code-practice-disinformation


For more information about the EU code of practice on disinformation, see:

➡️ Code of Practice on Disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)


 

 




     

 



🔺 Rapid Alert System


“The concept of a Rapid Alert System first emerged in the Action Plan against Disinformation (JOIN(2018)0036) of 5 December 2018 and the mechanism was finally set up in March 2019. One year later, Commissioner Věra Jourová stated that the system had been used for the first time to combat disinformation related to COVID-19. (…)” The EU’s Rapid Alert System against disinformation and how it functions (europa.eu)



Know more about EU's Rapid Alert System against disinformation in the link below 👇.


The EU’s Rapid Alert System against disinformation and how it functions (europa.eu)

 



European Democracy Action Plan  


“Standing up to challenges to our democratic systems from rising extremism and perceived distance between people and politicians, the Action Plan sets out measures to promote free and fair elections, strengthen media freedom and counter disinformation. More concretely, the Commission will propose legal action on political advertising that will address the sponsors of paid content and production and distribution channels, including online platforms, advertisers and political consultancies, clarifying their respective responsibilities. (…)” Countering disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu)


“Since 2015, the European Union has set out and is actively implementing concrete measures to address disinformation, protect its democratic systems and public debates. (…)” Countering disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu)


“The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act encompass a single set of new rules applicable across the whole EU to create a safer and more open digital space. (…)”The Digital Services Act package | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)


 How to fight an infodemic (thelancet.com)

 

 

image


 

  

 

  


 


 

 

WHO’s actions to combat Covid-19 disinformation

Because it is often unclear which measures actually work, this toolkit contains a range of ,  measures designed to make a contribution to what the WHO 📚 has termed 📚infodemic management” noemt. Dat dit geen overbodige luxe is, blijkt wel uit de volgende uitspraak van de algemeen directeur van de WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stelt tijdens de 2020 Munich Security Conference: “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.”


👁   📚

🔺 Rapid Alert System


“The concept of a Rapid Alert System first emerged in the Action Plan against Disinformation (JOIN(2018)0036) of 5 December 2018 and the mechanism was finally set up in March 2019. One year later, Commissioner Věra Jourová stated that the system had been used for the first time to combat disinformation related to COVID-19. (…)” The EU’s Rapid Alert System against disinformation and how it functions (europa.eu)



Know more about EU's Rapid Alert System against disinformation in the link below 👇.


The EU’s Rapid Alert System against disinformation and how it functions (europa.eu)

European Democracy Action Plan  


“Standing up to challenges to our democratic systems from rising extremism and perceived distance between people and politicians, the Action Plan sets out measures to promote free and fair elections, strengthen media freedom and counter disinformation. More concretely, the Commission will propose legal action on political advertising that will address the sponsors of paid content and production and distribution channels, including online platforms, advertisers and political consultancies, clarifying their respective responsibilities. (…)” Countering disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu)


“Since 2015, the European Union has set out and is actively implementing concrete measures to address disinformation, protect its democratic systems and public debates. (…)” Countering disinformation - European External Action Service (europa.eu)


“The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act encompass a single set of new rules applicable across the whole EU to create a safer and more open digital space. (…)”The Digital Services Act package | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)


 How to fight an infodemic (thelancet.com)


  • Listening to community concerns and questions
  • Promoting understanding of risk and health expert advice
  • Building resilience to misinformation
  • Engaging and empowering communities to take positive action”
WHO infodemic management



   📚 How to combat an infodemic?


Cinelli, M., Quattrociocchi, W., Galeazzi, A., Valensise, C. M., Brugnoli, E., Schmidt, A. L., ... & Scala, A. (2020). The COVID-19 social media infodemic. Scientific Reports10(1), 1-10. 


Vraga, E. K., Tully, M., & Bode, L. (2020). Empowering users to respond to misinformation about Covid-19. Media and Communication8(2), 475-479. 


Zarocostas, J. (2020). How to fight an infodemic. The Lancet, 395(10225). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140- 6736(20)30461-X 

Urgency

The spread of fake news about Covid-19, especially via social media, is a major problem. Despite the digital information supplied by institutions such as the RIVM National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands, the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, the WHO, hospitals and patient organisations, there are a great many citizens who place more reliance on the information about Covid-19 they find on social media. , 👁 zie verder ook 📚 Maatregelen Nederlandse overheid tegen nepnieuws

For example, almost a third of all Americans believes that the coronavirus originated in a laboratory en hun president liet weten dat hij preventief iedere dag preventief een pilletje hydroxychloroquine daily dose of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine.

Obviously, this could present a health hazard. The WHO site probeert burgers wereldwijd te waarschuwen voor dergelijke ‘tips’ (zie ook: ➡️ Questions and Answers about the East StratCom Task Force – European External Action Service (europa.eu); De Hoax-Wijzer - Startseite | Facebook . 👁 A collaboration with the fact checkers from Leiden University Educational measures in this toolkit. But who reads warnings like that and are they practicable in everyday life?

Access to cogent and reliable information about Covid-19 (becoming infected by the coronavirus, prevention, medicines, vaccine, recovery after infection) is of vital importance for citizens. But how to guarantee the citizens’ right to information in this respect?

Since the Covid-19 outbreak at the start of 2020, there have been numerous international studies conducted into the production, dissemination and use of Covid-19 fake news. Moreover, over the past years (inter)national reports have appeared that address the measures that can be taken to fight fake news; measure, which may also be applied in the case of Covid-19. See for example the following report published by the European Commission in 2018: A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation. Report of the independent High level Group on fake news and online disinformation A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation - Publications Office of the EU (europa.eu)

➡️ A collaboration with the fact checkers from Leiden University Legal measures

An impact on the short and the long term

  ,    

Access to reliable information about Covid-19 online is not only important now, in the middle of the crisis (info about the how the corona virus is transmitted, prevention, development of medicines and vaccines), but also in the long term (recovery after infection).

And of course, the toolkit with legal, technological and educational measures will also be useful in the future to combat fake news about other health care issues.

 

Images from https://www.canva.com/

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