UN’s ‘Pause’ campaign


Even half-a-year into the coronavirus pandemic it is startling that the United Nations (UN) has had to note that misinformation is spreading faster than the virus itself, driven no doubt by all sorts of news items and individual posts going viral on social media. Sometimes it can be some people’s harmless sharing of a message that later turns out to be false or, in a slightly worse case scenario, such trends can also develop as a result of deliberate spreading of fake news all across the world. The result, either way, is people getting very wrong information about a very dangerous situation.
All this has pushed the UN to initiate a behavioural change campaign called ‘Pause’, which urges people especially social media users to pause and think before sharing any piece of information regarding the pandemic to see if it could be fake or controversial. Such small measures, according to behavioural scientists, go a long way towards filtering the kind of information that eventually gets pushed through. These are extraordinary times, of course, and it is a matter of great fortune for everybody that they have come when the world is so strongly connected because of the internet, something that has enabled a lot of people to continue working and earning. Yet this remarkable technology is not without a potentially very dangerous downside as well, as we have seen and nobody less than the UN secretary general has had to take notice. Not just individual social media users but governments should also encourage the UN’s preferred way of dealing with this situation and advise people to pause a moment, take a breath or two, and then see if a particular news item of piece of information that touches one emotionally is really worth sharing with others or not.
The best way to deal with such a situation would be to leverage the UN platform, which most of the world’s countries subscribe to, and push for a combined policy that all member countries would be required to implement. Ideally each county should by now have had a solid national narrative about the issue. But while some governments have taken that trouble, most have not. And there could hardly be a better time for working on something just like that. Let us not forget that at risk is not a few people’s, or even governments’, reputations but lives of thousands and millions of people. The UN’s Pause initiative, therefore, should be supported in every possible way for the benefit of everybody across the globe