Coronavirus (771) Communication Initiative: Combating Misinformation and Rumours

23 June, 2020

I would like to point HIFA members to our colleagues at the Communication Initiative, who are putting together the issue of COVID misinformation.

'Rumours and Misinformation are a huge hurdle for effective Development action. COVID-19 is a further example of that difficult obstacle. The question (of course) is what can we do? Those engaged in The Communication Initiative network have shared considerable knowledge about how to address rumours and misinformation. Given the current challenges related to addressing present rumours and information, and future scenarios, we have reviewed the knowledge shared and developed a very brief strategic guidance note'

See the full note here:


'The nearly pervasive presence of basic and smart phones, social networks and WhatsApp groups (or the equivalent) helps provide fuel for rumours and misinformation. Everyone can be an instant news and information machine with reach way beyond any numerical, temporal, geographical, fact-checking or editing constraints. Accuracy, credibility and resonance are vital.'

'In relation to specific actions that are being developed for an effective response to COVID-19, if there is a major gap between the nature of the action encouraged and the possibility for implementation by people and communities, there is further fertile ground for the amplification of disruptive rumours and misinformation.'

'In relation to COVID-19, the trend in many countries is to mix facts and accurate information with opinion, wishes and ideological preferences, and then to present that mix as the truth. In that context, rumours and misinformation flourish.'

'As with all Development issues, engagement, analysis and action that take into account and work to the gender, local voices, minority languages, socio-economic and other perspectives, are vitally important as both matters of principle and for effectiveness.'

'STRATEGIES - What should we do?

'A. Go to people – do not expect them to come to you:

'Whether in person or online, find ways to identify the most popular and prevalent networks and engage in those spaces...'

'B. Combine scientific evidence with storytelling, especially through the voices of people directly affected... Facts alone are rarely sufficient. Most people are attracted to and engage with storytelling...'

'C. Identify and name the rumour and misinformation "source" and motivation. Most of us have no idea about the sources that initiate, feed or amplify specific rumours and misinformation in our local and national contexts. Therefore, it is difficult to make informed judgments related to accuracy and credibility... Understand and shine a light on the possible motivations of the communicator (e.g., money, politics, personal ambition, personal anecdotal experiences, ideology) of the rumour or misinformation in a manner that can help to undermine and neutralise its potency.'

'D. Undertake two-way communication that responds to the public's concerns as a conversation:

'Premise: As outlined within "The Challenge" above, there is a lot we do not know and are still learning about COVID-19. The facts can change and have changed.'

'E. (This should go without saying but) Get your own facts straight!

Premise: Nothing undermines an anti-rumour and anti-misinformation strategy more than getting the facts and information that are the base of that strategy wrong.'


Each of the strategies has links to further reading. This is an important and evolving resource.

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese). Twitter: @hifa_org FB: