A new pandemic prevention initiative by the World Health Organization will rely on “social listening surveillance systems” to identify “rumors and misinformation,” War Room can reveal.
The initiative – Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) – seeks to “guide countries in pandemic planning” while “incorporat[ing] the latest tools and approaches for shared learning and collective action established during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Internal documents from the United Nations (UN) agency, however, reveal a variety of invasive tactics deployed to suppress the spread of alleged “misinformation.” The WHO is pushing for member states – including the U.S. – to adopt these suggestions when developing or updating their respiratory pathogen pandemic plans.
Module one of the initiative’s blueprint describes how the spread of content deemed “misinformation” amounts to a new “health threat” called “infodemics.”
“Infodemic is the overabundance of information -accurate or not- which makes it difficult for individuals to adopt behaviours that will protect their health and the health of their families and communities. The infodemic can directly impact health, hamper the implementation of public health countermeasures and undermine trust and social cohesiveness,” the PRET document continues before identifying a variety of tactics to hamper the spread of posts contrary to mainstream public health narratives.
“Establish and invest in resources for social listening surveillance systems and capacities to identify concerns as well as rumors and misinformation,” argues the WHO.
“To build trust, it’s important to be responsive to needs and concerns, to relay timely information, and to train leaders and HCWs in risk communications principles and encourage their application. Communication should be tailored to the community of interest, focusing on and prioritizing vulnerable groups.”
“New tools and approaches for social listening have been developed using new technologies such as artificial intelligence to listen to population concerns on social media (such as the Platform EARS developed by WHO),” explains the PRET initiative report.
The paper also suggests testing out these strategies during “acute respiratory events including seasonal influenza” and involving the public and private sectors:
“Develop and implement communication and behaviour change strategies based on infodemic insights, and test them during acute respiratory events including seasonal influenza. This includes implementing infodemic management across sectors, and having a coordinated approach with other actors, including academia, civil society, and international agencies.”
Similarly, the WHO has begun expanding its “infodemic” research into private messaging apps, with a February article noting how “the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific has taken steps to explore the role and potential of using closed messaging apps for promoting health messages and reducing the spread of misleading information during and between influenza pandemics.”
These revelations come amidst the WHO’s efforts to codify a controversial Pandemic Treaty, which would cause signatories to cede control over many aspects of their country’s pandemic control and public health measures.