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Youth Against Misinformation

Stopping the global spread of harmful misinformation about COVID-19 by harnessing the power of young people to navigate online culture.

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Young people have the power to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Restless Development is a global agency that works with young people so they can lead to solving those challenges. Whether that means supporting communities to stop child marriage, prevent HIV, or end violence against women and girls, Restless Development works with young people to change their lives and the lives of people in their communities. We are facing a pandemic that threatens the well being, economies and livelihoods of all of us, but the most vulnerable communities will be hit the hardest. Restless Development has redirected our resources, efforts & networks to this fight, and with the incredible power of young people, we are ready to lead communities to combat COVID-19 and its effects. 

Restless Development have pivoted our work to join together with The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) to launch an initiative, Youth Against Misinformation, that aims to monitor and root out dangerous COVID-19 misinformation online and build the skill-set and agency of young people to understand how misinformation is spread online, identify fake news and develop strategies to tackle it. 

This is an exciting new partnership which combines the high-quality technical research, data analysis and policy capacity of CCDH with Restless Development’s decades of expertise in global youth engagement and community-led responses to the world’s biggest development challenges.

It has two aims: to monitor and root out dangerous COVID-19 misinformation online; and build the skill-set and agency of young people to understand how misinformation is spread online, identify fake news and develop strategies to tackle it. Volunteers receive comprehensive training on how to identify, report and respond to harmful misinformation online. It will also give us broad insight into the instrumentalisation of coronavirus by different types of actors - including hate actors, economically-motivated hucksters and others who exploit this crisis.

Youth Against Misinformation has already been launched as a four-week pilot in the UK. To date, 22 young volunteers around the UK have received online training from Restless Development and CCDH. 

The young volunteers involved in the programme come from a range of different social, economic and geographic backgrounds, lending the research a unique level of depth and diversity. They were selected from an existing pool of volunteers in the UK and split into three teams and trained in either tracking the spread of misinformation or tackling COVID-19 fake news. The volunteers also undertook risk and safeguarding training to understand how to remain safe online. Team Leaders underwent further training to provide pastoral support for their volunteers.

Currently, the volunteers have dedicated between three and five hours to the project weekly, including weekly project-wide debriefs with the project lead.  Through these debriefs we plan to develop and improve the programme around their suggestions and feedback from our volunteers so that it remains relevant and responds to the experiences. By the end of the pilot, we plan to have developed a fully formed programme that can be scaled up in the UK and globally.

While Youth Against Misinformation is currently in its pilot phase in the UK, it does not stop there. Like the COVID-19 virus, digital misinformation knows no geographical boundaries; CCDH has already identified COVID-19 fake news stories that have achieved global reach. In order to tackle the global contagion of COVID-19 misinformation online, CCDH and Restless Development aim to expand Youth Against Misinformation to operate globally, engaging with and training young people around the world to tackle the different digital and fake news challenges they will be facing in their contexts. 

A $10,000 grant would cover all of our direct activity costs; our campaign activity and mobile technology and apps required to leverage the misinformation data and take action.

What is the need are you focusing on?

Coronavirus has unleashed two parallel pandemics which reinforce each other. One is biological: the virus itself – and the other is social: misinformation. Misinformed people put themselves and others at risk by taking dangerous “cures” and showing false confidence and mistrusting official guidance which is designed to minimise public harm. This misinformation isn’t just preposterous, it’s dangerous, decreasing trust in government advice at a time when it is vital for us to listen to official recommendations on how we can reduce the spread of coronavirus. Research published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) shows that people who fall for COVID misinformation, even seemingly innocuous conspiracies about 5G technology being the cause of COVID symptoms, are less likely to follow clinical guidance such as washing their hands frequently, physically distancing and remaining at home wherever possible.

What is the best example of business adaption you’ve seen in response to COVID-19?

As the world tries to overcome this pandemic, we have found a global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and basic face masks needed to stop the spread. In response to this clear and urgent need, textile manufacturer and fashion house Burberry is retooling its trench coat factory in Yorkshire to make masks and other textile items. This is inspiring as they are quickly adapting to a clear and immediate need during a critical time to save lives, and have sacrificed any profit. However, this issue is also prevalent in developing economies, and on a smaller scale, we have seen young entrepreneurs in countries all over the world who have lost their income, livelihoods and work in fragile and informal economies, pivoting their efforts and resources to make face-masks for their communities. Therefore, while Burberry is just one business example, this is a global movement and pivot being taken by hundreds of larger and smaller scale business owners.

What is your profession?

Charity Corporate Partnerships

Where are you located (country)?

UK (Hubs in UK, USA, India, Nepal, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe)

Where are you located (region)?

  • Europe

Which industry do you work in?

  • Non-Profit/Philanthropy

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