WHO to Launch App to Prevent Sharing of Misinformation

The app was developed to help prevent the spread of misinformation, which has been described as a pandemic in itself.

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Need to Know

  • The World Health Organization to launch ‘WHO MyHealth’ app to help slow the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 this week.
  • Apple and Google have also recently launched COVID-19 resource hubs, in partnership with the WHO and the CDC.
  • Some researchers describe the sharing of misinformation as a pandemic in itself.

Analysis

In an effort to stop the spread of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) is releasing an official COVID-19 app. 

The ‘WHO MyHealth’ app will include travel advice, tips on what to do if you think you have been infected, and WHO “Myth-busters”.  Subscribers to WHO’s existing WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub will receive the same information, which also provides guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments, and local businesses.

While the MyHealth app is still in its initial stages, future iterations could include location-based alerts in real-time, and could even be used to perform contract tracing inside a community to identify individuals who could have potentially been exposed.

Sharing true and correct information is crucial in slowing the spread of the virus. As such, a number of other initiatives have been launched to share factual information and resources about the novel coronavirus. 

Google has launched an information hub that provides general information about COVID-19, how it spreads, and its symptoms. It also links to official resources from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO. Google’s website also features a real-time data-informed map showing all the confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world. 

Google’s site also includes a fundraising feature, for which the tech giants have committed to match $2 for every $1 donated. 

Apple has also launched a resource hub that includes self-screening functionality. Developed in partnership with the CDC and other government bodies, the app is available for users over the age of 18, who will be “guided through a series of questions including virus exposure and symptoms” before being directed to appropriate CDC recommendations. 

The accuracy of these apps and resources is dependent on up-to-date data. The WHO receives regular information from over 100 member states and generates statistics through health reporting and disease surveillance systems. 

Some researchers are calling the spread of misinformation a pandemic itself. 

When asked about the role of tech companies in preventing the sharing of “fake news”, crisis informatics researcher Kate Starbird described it as a balance. “Twitter has made some moves to try to get rid of certain kinds of misinformation and to surface the voices of the right experts, which I think are good moves. But I want to be careful about punishing people for sharing rumors or misinformation… . It’s so important that people feel that they can share information, and sometimes they’re going to get it wrong. It’s a real balance there, and there are some really hard trade-offs.”

For information on how to download the WHO’s MyHealth app, click here

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