As part of efforts to stop the spread of false information about the coronavirus pandemic, Wikipedia and the World Health Organization announced a collaboration on Thursday: The health agency will grant the online encyclopedia free use of its published information, graphics and videos. The collaboration is the first between Wikipedia and a health agency. From a report: "We all consult just a few apps in our daily life, and this puts W.H.O. content right there in your language, in your town, in a way that relates to your geography," said Andrew Pattison, a digital content manager for the health agency who helped negotiate the contract. "Getting good content out quickly disarms the misinformation." Since its start in 2001, Wikipedia has become one of the world's 10 most consulted sites; it is frequently viewed for health information. The agreement puts much of the W.H.O.'s material into the Wikimedia "commons," meaning it can be reproduced or retranslated anywhere, without the need to seek permission -- as long as the material is identified as coming from the W.H.O. and a link to the original is included.
"Equitable access to trusted health information is critical to keeping people safe and informed," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.'s director general. His agency translates its work into six official languages, which do not include, for example, Hindi, Bengali, German or Portuguese, so billions of people cannot read its documents in their native or even second language. Wikipedia articles, by contrast, are translated into about 175 languages. The first W.H.O. items used under the agreement are its "Mythbusters" infographics, which debunk more than two dozen false notions about Covid-19. Future additions could include, for example, treatment guidelines for doctors, said Ryan Merkley, chief of staff at the Wikimedia Foundation, which produces Wikipedia. If the arrangement works out, it could be extended to counter misinformation regarding AIDS, Ebola, influenza, polio and dozens of other diseases, Mr. Merkley said, "But this was something that just had to happen now." Eventually, live links will be established that would, for example, update global case and death numbers on Wikipedia as soon as the W.H.O. posts them, Mr. Pattison said.
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