In a bid to combat misinformation being shared online, the UK Government has announced it is partnering with social media influencers to help share accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, social media platforms are trying to fight this misinformation and fearmongering, and social media influencers can help reach audiences quickly and globally.
The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) will provide £500,000 (around $630,000) in funding to the H2H Network, which previously fought misinformation during the Ebola outbreak in 2013. Some of the funding will go to influencers charged with handing out accurate information and pointing younger viewers in Southeast Asia and Africa to official public health advice.
Social media influencers taking part in the program include KlikDokter, an Indonesian health blogger with over 4 million Facebook followers, Bianca Gonzalez, a health expert and YouTube vlogger from the Philippines with over 7 million followers and Dr Jahangir Kabir, a Bangladeshi health expert and popular TV presenter with over 1 million Facebook followers.
By enlisting social media influencers, the program hopes to “reach younger online audiences that are more susceptible to fake news.” It is also to help stop the spread of fake theories being shared online regarding COVID-19’s false cures, threats and preventative measures such as drinking chlorine. In one instance, the government said people in West Africa received WhatsApp messages supposedly from the Canadian Health Ministry that said drinking warm water helps prevent infection.
“These pose a serious risk to health and can speed up the spread of the virus, by stopping people taking simple practical, preventative steps like washing their hands,” said the DFID.
Partnering with influencers in a proactive way to reach the younger generation that tends not to use traditional media to consume news highlights again how much social media influences users, and how we can best utilise it to reach audiences quickly and globally.