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Message from UNESCO

Message from UNESCO

Message from the Local Hosts

Audrey Azoulay

Director-General of UNESCO

Message from UNESCO

False and misleading information has long been used to create fear, restrict rights and disrupt democratic processes. Describing the Great Plague of London, for example, Daniel Defoe wrote, "The plague itself was very terrible, and the distress of the people very great... But the rumour was infinitely greater." Defoe was writing in 1722, but he could have been describing the situation today.

However, there is one thing Defoe could never have predicted - the complexity of today¡¯s information environment. As COVID-19 has spread around the world, so too has a flood of rumours and false information. At a time when reliable facts can mean the difference between life and death, one in four popular YouTube videos on the coronavirus contains misinformation. As we anticipate the development and deployment of a vaccine, more than 1,300 anti-vaccination pages on Facebook have nearly 100 million followers between them.

Indeed, today, information is ubiquitous, and can travel instantly around the world. Today, anyone can create and distribute content, expressing themselves in ways they never could before. In some cases, this has created an overflow of information - both online and offline - where it is increasingly difficult for citizens to know what to believe and who to trust, creating potentially devastating implications for democracy, sustainable development and peace.

One of the strongest defences against false and misleading information is media and information literacy. This involves building the resilience of individuals through a combination of soft and hard skills: critical thinking to evaluate messages and understand the ethics of digital technology; coding and other competencies to create and use technological solutions to solve social challenges.

Media and Information Literacy Week was launched ten years ago to help spread these skills. Acknowledging the importance of MIL as a tool for development, UNESCO¡¯s Member States made this event official in November 2019, by proclaiming Global Media and Information Literacy Week at its General Conference. In 2020, Global MIL Week focuses on the theme Resisting the Disinfodemic: Media and Information Literacy for Everyone by Everyone. It recognizes that our ability to access and critically assess information is crucial - not only to save lives, but also to avoid failing into the trap of stigmatization.

UNESCO has therefore stepped up its work to challenge false information and rumours - on COVID-19 and other issues. In addition to developing educational resources for social media, it worked with the European Commission and Twitter to launch the #ThinkBeforeSharing campaign, empowering citizens to identify, debunk, react to and report on conspiracy theories. We are also working to update our MIL Curriculum for Teachers, in consultation with MIL experts, teachers, and information and media professionals, to ensure that every student across the globe is able to keep up with the rapid technological transformations of communication and information. The new Curriculum will be launched in early 2021.

To ensure that these efforts bear fruit, I call on everyone, everywhere, to make a commitment to media and information literacy for all. I would like to thank our partners for their commitment to this cause, and especially the Republic of Korea for hosting this year¡¯s celebrations.

Engage with us at the dedicated Virtual Conference Hall. Take part in our online campaigns, including #GlobalMILWeek, @MILCLICKS, and #ThinkBeforeSharing. Above all, help us to make sure that the desire to believe does not outweigh the desire to be informed.