Transparency, communication and trust : The role of public communication in responding to the wave of disinformation about the new Coronavirus

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Abstract: The global spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been accompanied by a wave of disinformation that is undermining policy responses and amplifying distrust and concern among citizens. Around the world, governments are leveraging public communication to counteract disinformation and support policy. The efficacy of these actions will depend on grounding them in open government principles, chiefly transparency, to build trust in public institutions. This policy brief provides an overview of this new wave of disinformation and notes some emerging examples of OECD member countries’ responses to it through public communication initiatives specifically. It also offers preliminary guidelines on engaging with citizens during the crisis to help address this challenge.

The reflections presented here are based on non-exhaustive evidence gathered through ongoing OECD data collection activities with member and partner countries, as part of the OECD Open and Innovative Government Division’s ongoing analysis on the role of public communication and media ecosystems to promote the open government principles of transparency, accountability, integrity and citizen participation. This brief complements a related analysis on Combating Covid-19 disinformation on online platforms developed by the OECD Directorate on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), as well as an upcoming Working Paper that takes a more comprehensive look at Governance Responses To Disinformation: How open government principles can inform policy options. Together, these publications form part of an emerging holistic framework on the role of public communication for good governance. The country examples included in this brief are intended to illustrate current practices.

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