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Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Illustration of person with magnifying glass with a search for - Infodemic and disinformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of over 4.8 million people worldwide. But this is not the only emergency we face. A WHO report points out that misinformation may generate the next crisis.

From home remedies, self-medication, healing potions, anti-vaccination movements, conspiracy theories, and hoaxes, misinformation and disinformation spread rapidly via internet-connected devices. The absence of existing medical protocols, economic and social crises due to stay-at-home orders, and the forced digitalization of activities have contributed to the phenomenon. 

To better understand the situation, the UNDP Accelerator Lab in coordination with UNESCO entrusted Citibeats to research citizen perceptions on the pandemic. Through our ethical AI-based social understanding platform, we categorized and identified conversations that could set a trend or denote the needs, concerns, and questions of citizens in real time regarding the impact of COVID-19. 

Analyzing more than 100,000 anonymous opinions extracted from Twitter and digital media between March and August 2020, we gained insight into the pandemic itself and relevant social issues it impacted, including tourism, citizen security, gender, and more.

We found that citizens' concerns were diverse, with tourism, security measures, and social protection generating the most conversation. Governmental efforts generated spikes in conversation on the different topics of study. Misinformation surrounding security and health measures to combat COVID-19 was also identified. 

The pandemic has provided lessons on creating a new and improved normal in which citizens have a voice and misinformation is limited. This is the time to reinvent ourselves. Communication will be a pillar that fosters resilient nations and strengthens trust in institutions. 

At Citibeats, we work with groundbreaking AI technology, so we’re surrounded by facts, figures, and data. While these are essential components of our mission, we believe that it’s critical to harness this information for development and inclusion in the next decade and beyond.

We strive to shape the future of cities, governance, and empowered citizens. To that end, we align with some of the most progressive and, in our opinion, brilliant thinkers and innovators of our time.

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