Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Combatting Deceptive Communication

Washington, DCAccording to The World Health Organization, approximately 6.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23,500 deaths were reported on March 7, bringing the current number of global deaths to more than 6 million. 

The total number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 has reached 3.8 million. 

These numbers mark a decline in reported cases and deaths across the globe from the spike in numbers reported during January, when we saw an increase before the holiday season. 

In addition, as of March 6, the WHO also reported a total of 10,704,043,684 vaccine doses had been administered.

While this data is promising in the global fight against the pandemic, there is still a need to be aware of the spread of misinformation concerning the virus and vaccination. 

Global public information systems are currently facing an infodemic, an excessive amount of information about a problem that is typically unreliable, spreads rapidly, and makes a solution more difficult to achieve. Communication channels are flooded with enough bad or deceptive information that people find it hard to discern reliable sources from false, misleading, or inaccurate information.

“The flow of information is of the greatest importance in regulating the level of social tension,” Wilbur Schramm wrote regarding the role of information in national development for UNESCO. “Communication is a kind of temperature-controlling agent.”

“The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected,” the United Nations stated on their website. 

disinformation“At the same time, the technology we rely on to keep connected and informed is enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine the global response and jeopardizes measures to control the pandemic.”  

There needs to be better communication from organizations in the governments, industries, and non-profit sectors to protect people who depend on the institutions they have come to rely on to make good choices. 

“In our rapidly changing world, technology enables freedom of speech and information transparency, throwing open the curtains of secrecy that once concealed back-room deals working against public interest,” writes Ivri Verbin, Corporate Responsibility in the Digital Age.

Combatting deceptive information requires all professional communicators to take responsibility for human life and social order to build trust and stabilize national development. According to Global Citizen, the most reliable sources for reliable information against the infodemic are:

  1. The World Health Organization
  2. The National Health Service
  3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  4. The BBC Coronavirus Podcast
  5. COVID-19 Facts
  6. The New Scientist Podcast
  7. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  8. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  9. The RELX SDG Resource Center

Communication technology is advancing at a speed and rate outpacing most expectations. In approximately 130 years, globalized information technology has advanced from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patent in 1876, allowing two people to communicate instantaneously via landlines across distances, to the creation of mobile cellular devices that can transmit voice, words, images, and video across wireless signals at the press of a button. 

The Internet of Things has made communication between individuals faster, cheaper, and less time-consuming. We have shrunk our world and increased the ease and freedom of global communication.

Professional communicators “wield major influence in the public opinion game,” Scott Cutlip mentioned in his book, The Unseen Power: Public Relations. He added that “Propagandist, press agent, public information officer, public relations or public affairs official, political campaign specialist, lobbyist” all have the same aim “to influence public behavior.” In this case, the behavior is to persuade citizens to get vaccinated and eradicate the COVID-19 virus.

In 1964, Wilbur Schramm wrote in his book Mass Media and National Development: The Role of Information in the Developing Countries, for The United Nations and UNESCO cited after the United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information in 1948 called freedom of information “one of the basic freedoms.” 

The UN Conference on Freedom of Information called “free and adequate information ‘the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is dedicated.” But to have free and adequate information, there must be sufficient development of mass communication. It is understood that free and adequate information brings about social change. But it can also bring about social disorder.

Deceptive information has been around for centuries and has been used to undermine positive social change. To maintain social order and communicate responsibly, governments, industries, and non-profits must ensure they engage in ethical discourse that enhances health, education, social, and information systems. 

Adequate and free information about COVID 19 and the variants needs to be free of deceptive discourse between people and the institutions they have come to trust.

Author profile
Sebastian G. Warren

Sebastian is a Senior Communication Practitioner with more than 23 years of multi-level experience in strategic communication planning, writing, public affairs, and leadership. He serves as the Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Heritage Region.

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