Verified With the United Nations Secretary General
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the misinformation surging across digital channels and the lack of reliable health information were impeding the public health response and stirring unrest. To combat the growing scourge of COVID-19 misinformation and provide accurate, lifesaving information, Purpose and the United Nations launched Verified, a global communication initiative working with UN agencies, UN Information Centers, influencers, civil society, social media platforms, business and media organizations. Verified distributes trusted, accurate information and changes media consumption practices to reduce the spread of misinformation online.
As COVID-19 began to turn lives upside down, people all over the world were searching for information on how to keep safe, stay hopeful and help one another. Misinformation moved from being a minority concern to a global epidemic that hampered communities, institutions and governments ability to respond. Also, the lack of leadership from many governments to deliver a consistent and data-based response, the rising polarisation around COVID-19 prevention and safety measures, and the exacerbated experiences of anxiety across the board added additional layers of challenges. We needed to cut through crowded misinformation ecosystems and reach mainstream audiences globally with accurate information on COVID-19.
Misinformation is a virus spread by people, therefore we need to mobilise people to take action against it and to establish people-powered change. Verified aims to cut through crowded media environments to improve access to COVID-19 lifesaving information, counter misinformation on COVID-19, and shift media consumption practices to limit the spread of misinformation online.
We created content to reach global audiences that encouraged behaviour change around how people shared content online, while promoting reliable, science-backed information.
Verified focuses on providing science-backed information in misinformation dense environments. If Verified can help people identify misinformation and stop them in the process of sharing untrusted content, we can stop the spread of potentially harmful messages, keeping our minds as safe as our bodies. Verified rallied the public to participate by sharing content and dispelling misinformation in a global behaviour-change activation called “Pause.” By mobilising the public to pause and think before they share information online, we can collectively reduce the dissemination of harmful, false narratives.
Theory of Change
Verified will create and distribute compelling content to cut through crowded environments and deliver life saving information to limit the spread of the virus.
Additionally, Verified will introduce a “pause before sharing content” behavior change component to reduce the level at which misinformation spreads.
Purpose & the United Nations launched Verified to provide content that cuts through the noise to deliver life-saving information, fact-based advice and stories from the best of humanity.
Through Verified, we are leveraging the UN brand, as well as popular brands that connect with audiences online and offline: from Cartoon Network in Brazil to Flipkart in India.
Verified has activated 70,000 information volunteers, delivered content in 130 countries, and tested a wide range of channels and formats: from cover songs and live quizzes by influencers, to masses in solidarity held at national landmarks.
Verified messages and content have reached over 1 billion people through our media, community radio, civil society and social media, and has had collaborations with over 250 organisations.
Pause was the first global behaviour change campaign on misinformation that mobilised the misinformation expert and research community, 50+ influencers, and 200+ organisations including civil society, governments, regulators and media/broadcasters under a single message: Pause before you share content online.
Pause is focused on interrupting the moment when billions of people hit share on misinformation. Multiple studies have shown that, by interrupting the emotion rush and introducing friction into the act of consuming and sharing content, you can decrease the sharing of misinformation. Pause interrupts the emotional arousal, allowing the rush to subside and reducing harmful shares.
We met audiences in their everyday life by using culture to push the core message behind the Pause campaign. The campaign has received significant influencer engagement from over 50 high profile voices including Chelsea Clinton, Malala and Neil Patrick Harris.
The second phase of the Pause campaign reached at least 200 million people through a combination of social media, broadcast and community radio.
TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world, with the wide majority of its users being younger than 24 years old. Inspired by the idea of “meeting people where they are” and to deliver Pause messaging to a younger demographic, we articulated a week-long campaign in collaboration with TikTok Brazil. The campaign featured a TikTok challenge, and three lives with specialists in disinformation and fact-checking.
Pause had a content-heavy strategy on Instagram served by GIPHY with specific Verified misinformation gifs, which were viewed over 161m times. GIPHY featured Pause’s gifs on their front page, and the stickers performed extremely well, with over 20 high profile influencers and celebrities sharing the content.
Misinformation on COVID-19 is a global issue that spans across large cities to remote villages and requires mass participation to combat its spread. In order to tackle this, Purpose needed a collaboration strategy which enabled us to reach and engage every audience despite their location or culture with clear call-to-actions for participation. To reach our targeted audiences in unexpected places, Purpose secured over 250 collaborations worldwide.
Through collaborations with ‘unusual’ messengers, the campaign raises awareness of the issue of misinformation amongst mainstream audiences while building media literacy amongst targeted communities that are vulnerable to misinformation.
To reach audiences at scale and to elevate the voices of trusted influencers and experts disseminating reliable health advice, Verified collaborated with the world’s biggest social media platforms.
Verified hosted a Reddit series of AMA (Ask Me Anything) with misinformation experts. The main pages where the AMA was hosted were r/coronavirus, which has 2.2M members and r/askscience with 19.3M members. The AMAs were pinned to the tops of the threads for the day.
3.8K people ‘upvoted’ the AMAs —meaning they ‘liked’ or ‘approved’ and made the conversation appear higher up the pages.
WikiHow is a trusted global source of how-to information from experts. Verified and WikiHow have collaborated to create a series of 15 articles with user-friendly advice and tips about how to deal with COVID-19 misinformation. The articles cover topics like how to react to upsetting posts online, how to spot misinformation, and the difference between misinformation and disinformation.
During its first month, the project delivered 11.8 million impressions through homepage, email and social promotion and the content was read by over 50,000 people. Translations into multiple languages will also be rolled out.
Experts vs the Internet
Experts VS The Internet was developed as a video series in collaboration with VT (one of Facebook’s largest pages) which featured key medical influencers and experts dispelling COVID-19 misinformation. Our experts discussed the facts audiences need to know about COVID-19 to prevent the spread of misinformation.
Turma da Mônica Collaboration & Public Transport
Another key partnership in Brazil was a content series with the most famous and admired Brazilian comic book series, Turma da Mônica (“Monica & Friends”). With this partnership, the campaign set out to disseminate important information about COVID-19 through the beloved cartoon characters across many generations in Brazil. In addition to a social media content series with the characters sharing different facts and precautions, the campaign partnered with Turma da Mônica for a 3 month installation in São Paulo subway cars and stations.
For 3 months, 670,000 daily São Paulo subway passengers in the yellow and lilac lines learned about COVID-19 safety precautions and the dangers of misinformation from the many screens located around various stations. The installation came to life with 1.3 meter characters statues and posters in 6 different train stations, full length posters on train doors, and videos and quizzes on monitors in the trains and stations, all with useful information regarding COVID-19 for kids and parents. The “Information Saves Lives” exhibition highlights the importance of disseminating accurate and precise safety guidelines.
Verified has reached billions of people worldwide via strong collaborations with broadcast and social media companies. This wide range of media coverage has sparked conversation over a wide range of platforms. The strategy of having widespread but targeted media coverage ensured that we built the profile of Verified as a credible and popular campaign, while also reaching those most vulnerable to misinformation.
Brazil has seen an increase in misinformation and polarisation during the pandemic. Our efforts are focused in pushing and delivering the Verified message in unconventional ways, and also in elevating the human story and struggle that has been widely overlooked, while building national solidarity to unite Brazilians through a shared sentiment.
So far, the highlights included the production of a song to inspire solidarity and hope, which engaged a team of stars and crossed borders to over 10 countries, and a tribute at Christ the Redeemer, the most well-known Brazilian landmark, which reached 294 million in over 25 countries.
In parallel, we used a variety of tones adequate to diverse audiences to raise awareness and equip Brazilians to protect themselves against COVID-19 and the misinformation that surrounds it. Examples of our work to engage targeted communities include: a collaboration with Cartoon Network, out of home content in public transport (one of the virus hotspots), and a humorous video debunking pieces of disinformation in collaboration with Quebrando o Tabu, in addition to supporting the local UN team in amplifying key messages via social media.
For Every Life
The For Every Life (Para Cada Vida) activations in Brazil enabled us to focus our messaging on solidarity and unity. For Every Life made international news with their illumination of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro with the names of those who died due to COVID19, as well as images of essential workers.
For Every Life united the world in a collective sentiment of solidarity and unity. The event included a message from Pope Francis, a projection mapping, a poem narrated by Tony Ramos, and a live concert featuring well known artist Alcione.
The campaign reached over 300 million people in total. The activations had broadcast coverage by Globo, and gained earned media in Brazil and across the world, including The New York Times, Vatican News, ABC news, The Guardian, CNN, Le Figaro, India Today and Ruptly.
To brighten up the end of a difficult year, we created a song that inspires unity and solidarity to help overcome the intense challenges caused by the pandemic, and brings a message of hope for a better future.
A group of 16 renowned singers representing diverse musical styles joined us in this project, pro bono. The song, called “Avião”, was launched on Record TV – second biggest Brazilian TV channel, and media coverage reached over 10 countries. The video clip, which went viral on WhatsApp, was also shared by the performers (who amass over 80 million followers), and the song is now being played in several radio stations across Brazil.
India’s action against coronavirus was hampered by a government response that lacked the resources to engage the population on digital and phone-based platforms, the very places where misinformation was spreading. Our response was focused on getting Verified information to individuals on their phones, in optimised formats.
The campaign generated a broad range of content pieces across diverse channels in order to counter misinformation messages from different angles.
The campaign has reached 250m people across India via content in English and Hindi, across a variety of formats, from TV to social media. We have activated a wide range of influencers and brands to meaningfully reach audiences at the national and local levels. Millions of people are engaging by taking quizzes online and sharing Verified content.
In collaboration with Flipkart, India’s biggest online store, we created a misinformation quiz with comedian Mallika Dua that more than 1 million people took. This innovative approach reached over 40 million people and generated more than 70 articles across national media.
The team created a brand identity for the Verified brand. This flexible brand identity serves as an overarching brand to deliver messaging, especially via UN channels – but also serves as an endorsement to bring credibility to a campaign like Pause and local initiatives. Some of the campaign content was unbranded to ensure that the influencers and trusted messengers could speak to their audiences in the tone and brand that best relates to them. The brand identity had to be able to interact with this unbranded content as well.
This identity needed to be bright, eye-catching, and trustworthy. The brand needed to be adaptable for global campaigns and more local targeted interventions.
As the pandemic evolved, the Verified campaign moved towards a model that centers communications efforts designed to reach vulnerable populations who are not yet reached or have not responded to traditional public health communications.
This required specific content & strategies tailored to the needs of each region. The country showcases highlight India, Brazil, and South Africa’s Verified work.
Verified has been a key part of the United Nations’ global COVID-19 response, helping reach a billion people around the world with trusted information, life-saving advice and stories from the best of humanity.
The campaign has been successful in reaching mainstream audiences at scale and local communities through trusted messengers, and shifting national narratives in the regions most at risk for COVID.
for Equity & Evidence