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WHO targets teens on social media to debunk coronavirus myths

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GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP)— 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 teen 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 organisation 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.

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“We are a science-based organisation 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.

– Google, YouTube filtering –

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The WHO has its own dedicated COVID-19 “Myth busters” page, directly debunking popular rumours about the virus, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide and infected over 3.2 million.

Pattison said the WHO was working on chatbot features with WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat, but hoped to open channels on up to 30 such apps to take into account the most popular ones in in various countries, such as Line in Japan.

“It’s really important that we reach millions of people directly in their own language,” he said.

Pattison said that the WHO was partnering with YouTube to try to remove harmful misinformation and eliminate scientifically baseless rumours, in a two-way relationship.

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YouTube gives the WHO insights into trending COVID-19 rumours and the UN agency tells them which are harmless and which might be dangerous.

Pattison said Google was working with the WHO so that searches for COVID-19 produced news from credible outlets and local in-country health information.

“They’ve been very good at finding the right balance,” he said.

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Jack Dorsey Exits Twitter Board, Clearing the Way for the Elon Musk Era at the App

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Elon Musk Launches Hostile Takeover Bid for Twitter

While there’s no new news on the Elon Musk takeover saga, we do have another reminder that Twitter’s leadership team is never going to be the same, regardless of what comes next, with co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey today leaving the Twitter board, effective immediately.

Dorsey’s full exit removes another big chunk of experience from the company – over the past two weeks, Twitter has lost:

  • Consumer product leader Kayvon Beykpour, who’d worked at Twitter for four years
  • Head of revenue product Bruce Falck (5 years)
  • Ilya Brown, a VP of product management (6 years)
  • Katrina Lane, VP of Twitter Service (1 year)
  • Max Schmeiser, head of data science (2 years)

That said, Dorsey’s move, isn’t a surprise.

Back in November, when Dorsey announced that he was standing down as Twitter CEO, he also noted that he would stay on Twitter’s board till around ‘May-ish’ to help incoming CEO Parag Agrawal and incoming Twitter Board chair Bret Taylor with their respective transitions.

Of course, back then, Dorsey couldn’t have predicted the chaos on the horizon, but despite the distractions of an imminent takeover, Dorsey has decided to stick with his original plan, and step away from the platform that he helped build.

That clears the path for a new era under Elon Musk, who has vowed to make significant changes to the way that Twitter operates – though of late, Musk seems to be more distracted by stats on population decline and political conspiracies than he does in completing the Twitter deal.

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On May 13th, Musk said that his Twitter takeover offer was effectively ‘on hold’ pending more data from Twitter on its fake profile count, which it pegs at 5% of active users. Many users have since shared partial evidence that, in their opinion, proves that this number is not correct, while Twitter itself has maintained that there’s no such thing as ‘on hold’ in the takeover process, and that it’s preparing for the deal to close sometime soon.

Musk says that he won’t pay full price for something that’s not what he believed he was purchasing.

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But then again, Musk also waived doing detailed due diligence on Twitter’s business, in order to reach an agreement faster, which means that he may be tied to the purchase anyway, regardless of what Twitter or anyone else may find here.

For his part, Dorsey has been a strong advocate for Musk, and his interest in Twitter, and has noted several times that he believes Musk is the best option to ‘save’ the company.

Now Dorsey is getting out of the way to let that happen, which will mean that none of Twitter’s four founders remain in any position to advise or guide the platform in any direct capacity from now on.

That could be a good thing. Twitter, of course, is a far cry from what it was in the beginning, and maybe now it needs to detach from its founding concepts to reach its next stage.

But again, that’s a lot of experience heading out the door, with current CEO Agrawal also on the chopping block, according to Musk’s statements.

How that impacts Twitter’s future direction is hard to say. Again, Musk has already flagged significant changes, but without experienced voices advising him on what’s happened in the past, he could be doomed to repeat previous mistakes, impeding the company’s progress even more.

Or maybe it makes things easier, without the constraints of past limitations holding things up. I would lean towards the former, but clearly, Musk has his own ideas about how he’s going to transform the app, once he does, eventually, take control.

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Which seems like more of a ‘when’ than ‘if’, but maybe Musk has some other trick up his sleeve to either reduce his offer price or get out of the Twitter deal entirely.

Either way, massive changes are coming to the app, which could alter the way that it’s used entirely.

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