The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the social data AI platform Citibeats collaborated to curb misinformation about COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic.
The initiative analyzed public misconceptions about COVID-19 and perceptions on related social issues via artificial intelligence machine learning based on text-based publications. It also identified and evaluated the reliability of the information disseminated in the media.
Misinformation poses a threat to national COVID-19 responses and can undermine public confidence in governments. A UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 established rights to information and participation, stating the goal to "ensure access to accurate and timely information at all stages of the crisis, and allow meaningful participation of the affected populations in decisions on COVID-19 related policy responses." To this end, decision-makers need baseline data on the information ecosystem and how it relates to public actions and perceptions about disinformation.
In the face of this urgency, UNDP and UNESCO decided to promote capacity development initiatives that increased vulnerable populations’ ability to seek and identify reliable sources of information in the Dominican Republic. The first step was analysis, which offered an evidence-based perspective on the landscape of disinformation in the Dominican Republic to steer actions towards the dissemination of clear and verified information and help people make better decisions.
The COVID-19 crisis created complex, uncertain situations, resulting in contradictory messages regarding statistics, treatments, measures to prevent the spread of the disease, and government actions to counteract the socioeconomic crisis. In this landscape, digital media and social networks contributed to misinformation, which particularly affected people with limited digital knowledge. This highlighted the urgency of taking decisive action on misinformation for effective and sustainable socio-economic recovery.