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202003 meedan-covid-19

Meedan is a global organization. Our name speaks to gathering - in a number of languages the Meedan, Maydan, Maidan, etc is the town square. Our work, too, is about gathering people. We recognized very early that misinformation is a global challenge and so response projects need to be global. We run training sessions, host convenings, bring together large scale monitoring projects, and have network partners across 14 time zones; our work is about connecting people, crossing borders, gathering in the squares.

It is remarkable that this truly global collaboration to #slowthespread and #flattenthecurve is explicitly a global anti(in-person)-gathering. In Meedan terms: the future of our global town squares is dependent on our near term efforts to keep our physical town squares empty, and our digital town squares free of dangerous misinformation.

As we confront the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic we are addressing the immediate needs of a global team and also working to develop programs that contribute to the global COVID-19 response.

Following the lead of some other inspiring organizations, today, we have withdrawn limits on sick days and personal paid leave that our team members might need to care for a child whose school has been cancelled or to care for disabled or vulnerable family members. We have closed our offices, cancelled all planned travel and meetings, and have put a hold on the Check Global Investigative Camp in Tunisia and CheckCon EU.

Last week we sent a memo to our Check Global partners outlining our support for their health and well-being and a request that they revisit work plans, budgets, and project timelines in light of COVID-19. We did this with the consent and encouragement of funders including Omidyar Network and the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency.

We are also working on specific programmatic responses. Last year we launched the Meedan Digital Health Lab with a focus on access to health information as a health equity issue. My colleagues An Xiao Mina and Nat Gyenes framed some of our rationale for starting this lab in a prescient piece in the Atlantic, How Misinfodemics Spread Disease, in which they coined the term misinfodemics. As numerous international bodies have identified misinformation as one of the most actionable areas for civil society and governmental work, we are building a coalition with epidemiologists, public health communications experts, technology companies, and civil society partners to create a database of COVID-19 facts and a repository of annotated misinformation.

We have moved a significant percentage of our Check Global, Digital Health Lab and CryptoChat research program energies into this new program area beginning immediately.

Against the very tangible threat to our emotional and physical well-being, I want to close this brief statement by saying perhaps this global project to stay apart might actually serve to bring together a world that is riven politically and ideologically. It’s going to take some brilliant and heroic collaborations to make it through the next several months and we are committed to doing what we can as an organization placed at the epicenter of misinformation response and digital health.

Epidemiologist? Public Health Expert? Talented Engineer? Post-doc Researcher? Email us at hello@meedan.com if you want to lend a hand with the formidable task of getting high quality COVID-19 info onto the interwebs while we rebuild this plane inflight and work through a new way of running a coronavirus resistant organization.

EAB
March 16, 2020
Woodacre, CA

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