European Commission takes measures to fight disinformation around COVID-19

Misinformation on matters of public health is not a new phenomenon, but it has seen a sudden rise since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Disinformation and fake news are rife, with some claiming that the coronavirus is a biological weapon created for various purposes, that zinc kills the virus, or that Big Pharma is exaggerating the importance of the pandemic to boost sales.

Date 2020-04-14 Author BIK Team Section awareness, policy

The circulation of erroneous information online can cause great harm in many ways. First and foremost, if even part of the population falls for bogus medical advice, it will put their health in danger and further aggravate the ongoing public health crisis. But the problem runs deeper, as demonstrated by the range of coordinated disinformation attacks emanating from foreign organisations, carried out on a massive scale, aiming to exploit the crisis in order to damage trust in governments and media, to sow discord in Western societies, and to undermine European solidarity.

As part of its wider common European response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission (EC) has taken steps to address disinformation, firstly recommending that everyone stick to the advice and updates coming directly from trusted sources such as national public health authorities, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Through its Fighting disinformation page, the EC is also setting the facts straight – on the gravity of the virus, on the availability of a cure, on the link between the coronavirus and 5G technologies, and so on – in order to debunk the most common myths around COVID-19. To better protect consumers, the EC has also addressed online scams related to products that allegedly can cure or prevent the COVID-19 infection, with a dedicated page on the topic.

In addition, because the pandemic "may cause significant disruption to the provision of education, training and mobility opportunities for learners, teachers and educators across the EU", the EC is also offering a number of online toolsonline platforms and EU-funded projects – to connect educators and learners with each other, to access information and environments not usually available in every home or institution, and to support the continued professional development of educators in a flexible way.

On Better Internet for Kids (BIK), we'll be bringing you a range of articles and insights on the opportunities and challenges of being online during COVID-19 for the duration of the crisis. Keep checking the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal and follow our social channels on Twitter (@Insafenetwork and @SafeInternetDay) and Facebook (@SaferInternet and @SaferInternetDay) for the latest news, information, advice and resources from the Insafe network and from other stakeholder organisations on staying safe online during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, for localised help and support in responding to some of the online challenges which COVID-19 might present, please do reach out to your national Safer Internet Centre (SIC) – find profile information and contact details on the BIK portal. In addition to a range of articles and resources in national languages, European Safer Internet Centres also provide helpline services allowing children and young people, and parents and carers, to access personalised advice and support.

NEW: In March 2020, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in collaboration with selected European research teams began a study titled "Kids' Digital lives in COVID-19 Times" (KiDiCoTi). The study gathers data to map the evolution of children's digital engagement during the coronavirus lock-down with a particular focus on child online safety, privacy and wellbeing. Find out more about the study on the EC website. See also the report (October 2020) "How families handled emergency remote schooling during the time of Covid lockdown in spring 2020: Summary of key findings from families with children in 11 European countries".

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