WHO targets teens on social media to debunk virus myths

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by Robin Millard

The World Health Organization said Friday it was working with social media companies in a bid to quash misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic — including on more light-hearted apps popular with teenagers.

The WHO said it had started working with TikTok and Snapchat since the pandemic broke out in a bid to reach out to teens and younger social messaging app users.

“We’re battling misinformation every day,” said Andy Pattison, the UN health agency’s digital solutions manager.

On social media, “false stories outperform the truth on every single subject” in how far and how quickly they spread, he told a virtual press briefing.

The WHO is, therefore, attempting to combat falsehoods with science-based messages through the most commonly-used social media apps, he said.

Aleksandra Kuzmanovic, the WHO’s social media manager, said the organization had also established a presence on TikTok and Snapchat during the COVID-19 pandemic because most of its followers on previous platforms were in the 25 to 35 age bracket.

“On TikTok and Snapchat, we are now reaching audiences that are much younger,” she said.

“It was important for us to communicate with teenagers how they can protect themselves.

“We are a science-based organization that has serious information and TikTok is a platform that is perceived as funny — people share funny videos and information.”

Kuzmanovic said the challenge was how to put across serious, educational information on TikTok.

“With their help, we adjusted some of our video products to be suitable to the platform,” she said. (AFP)

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