GCS International joins the fight against health misinformation worldwide

“Not everything is as it seems” reads across the screen as an image of an unassuming cat transforms into a fierce tiger.

This is the opening scene of Go Viral! an online game developed by the Government Communication Service International (GCS International) in partnership with the University of Cambridge to alert people to the dangers of misinformation around coronavirus (COVID-19) and how to combat it.

By taking players through different interactive scenarios, the choice-based game helps people identify information which, like the switching image of the cat turned tiger, can harbour an ulterior motive.

Step by step, players experience and react to some of the most common techniques in the production of COVID-19 misinformation, including hyper-emotional language, fake experts and conspiracy theories.

This exposure can have significant results. The latest research into inoculation theory shows that the Go Viral! game reduces participants’ belief in false information by as much as 21% for a period lasting up to 3 months.

Alongside the Go Viral game, GCS International is collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the BBC to encourage social media users to report misinformation to platform providers, as part of a preventative approach.

The international campaign assets steer audiences towards trustworthy information rather than engaging with the source or content of specific narratives. Upon its launch, it was the second most-viewed source of COVID-19 information on the WHO website.

GCS International is also working with the WHO on a campaign to provide engaging, positive and factual content about the vaccine, which is shared and viewed on a global scale.

The campaign has been seen over 214 million times across social media platforms, underscoring the benefits of adopting a proactive communications approach.

Vaccine confidence, undermined by an infodemic of misinformation about the importance, safety, or effectiveness of vaccines, poses a severe risk to the acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines – critical to our defence against the pandemic, enabling our collective recovery and reducing the risk of repeated outbreaks.

In 2019, WHO declared vaccine hesitancy – defined as the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services – as one of the top ten global health threats.

To overcome this threat, fresh thinking and bold, coordinated action between all sectors is required.

Our innovative partnership with the WHO allows us to reach more audiences internationally and have a greater impact on building resilience to misinformation, ensuring trust and confidence in vaccines globally remains high.

In a year when the UK holds the G7 presidency, we are determined to work with partners to chart a global recovery from the pandemic – and we will leave no stone unturned in harnessing the full potential of government communications to achieve this goal.

About GCSI

GCS International (GCSI) applies our communication skills to problems facing our international partners in support of UK overseas objectives. Communication professionals from across UK government departments and our network of embassies provide guidance on how communication interventions can help partner governments better communicate to improve the lives of citizens.

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