UNESCO has released a set of infographic materials in all languages of South East Europe and Turkey to tackle the online spread of COVID-19 related conspiracy theories through critical thinking and empathy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a parallel pandemic of dangerous misinformation and rumors in the form of conspiracy theories, including far-fetched explanations of the origins of the virus, how it can be cured, and who is to blame for its spread. Conspiracy theories undermine science, facts and trust in institutions, and pose an immediate threat to individuals and communities.
As part of the UNESCO EU-funded Project “Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey-Phase 2”, UNESCO is extending to the EU enlargement area the successful social media campaign #ThinkBeforeSharing organized originally with the European Union and Twitter. Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, actively took part in the campaign sharing these materials to help citizens with useful tools to recognize and debunk conspiracy theories.
The visual learning resources address how to recognize conspiracy theories, understand what drives them, refute them with facts and respond effectively to those who are spreading them. The visual learning resources are part of UNESCO’s work on Media and Information Literacy (MIL) and related educational graphics produced as part of the Organization’s COVID-19 response. They draw on the expert advice of Professor Michael Butter, author of the Guide to Conspiracy Theories, as well as Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, authors of the Conspiracy Theory Handbook.
The project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey – Phase 2 aims to strengthen freedom of expression while empowering citizens to think critically in a region considered vulnerable to the spread of disinformation. Together with key partners, and with funding from the European Union, the project addresses three key objectives, one of which is to increase critical thinking among youth, through Media and Information Literacy in formal and non-formal education. The current campaign supports this objective by enhancing MIL skills and, in turn, increasing public demand and support in the region for quality media content.