Wikipedia and WHO team up to combat COVID-19 misinformation

WHO infographics and other resources will now be available on Wikimedia outlets.
By Laura Lovett
11:51 am
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Wikimedia, parent company of Wikipedia, inked a deal with the World Health Organization focused on providing reliable and factual information about COVID-19. 

As part of this new collaboration, WHO resources, including infographics, will be freely licensed and can be used on Wikipedia’s coronavirus coverage pages. WHO videos and infographics will also be housed on Wikimedia Commons, which provides a library of free images. 

The partners say that a team of Wikipedia’s volunteers will translate the WHO information into various languages.

WHY IT MATTERS 

The WHO reports that as of October 18 there have been over 40 million coronavirus cases and 1.1 million deaths due to the disease. It’s not only the virus that has spread rapidly. Misinformation has flourished in the coronavirus pandemic.

Early on reliable information about the virus was difficult to come across. In fact, a review published in JMIR found that in February there was little information for the public on the virus. 

“The use of the Internet has a risk to public health, and, in cases like this, the governments should be developing strategies to regulate health information on the Internet without censoring the population. By February 6, 2020, no quality information was available on the Internet about COVID-19,” researchers of the study wrote.

The deal between Wikimedia and the WHO is just one of the efforts that have been presented to help inform people about the virus. 

“Access to information is essential to healthy communities and should be treated as such,” Katherine Maher, CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement. “This becomes even more clear in times of global health crises when information can have life-changing consequences. All institutions, from governments to international health agencies, scientific bodies to Wikipedia, must do our part to ensure everyone has equitable and trusted access to knowledge about public health, regardless of where you live or the language you speak.”

THE LARGER TREND 

Wikipedia isn’t the only site aiming to provide more accurate information on COIVD-19. In February, Facebook first made moves to curb the spread of misinformation about the virus by removing false claims and conspiracy theories about the disease posted on the social media site. In its place, Facebook outlined plans to put up vetted info from health organizations.

In the U.K., the NHS announced that it is working with Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to provide the public with accurate information about COVID-19 and prevent the spread of “fake news.”

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