The deadly coronavirus has turned into a global epidemic, with WHO declaring it as a major outbreak. But if the virus wasn’t enough, there is a digital epidemic of its own, brewing in the form of misinformation about the virus on various social media channels. To tackle this dangerous digital misinformation web, Facebook is trying to do its part by limiting this spread.
Facebook generally limits the distribution of content containing health misinformation through restrictions on search results and advertising but allows the original posts to stay up. That is why it is a rather unusual and relatively aggressive move by the social networking giant. But one, which seems to be going in the right direction. This is uniform across both Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook has shared through its blogpost, three specific steps that it is taking to curb the effect of coronavirus. They broadly include limiting misinformation and harmful content, providing helpful information and support, and lastly empowering partners with data tools. Although Facebook admitted that many of the steps are in planning phase. It stated, “Our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus”
Facebook claims to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people, if they believe in them. This includes claims related to false cures or fake prevention methods. Examples of such misinformation includes posts that claim drinking bleach, cures the coronavirus among others.
Facebook said that it is sharing aggregated and anonymized mobility data and high-resolution population density maps with Harvard University’s School of Public Health and National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. This can help in predicting forecasting models for the spread of the virus.
The infamous virus, believed to be originated in a food market of Wuhan has also spread along with itself, an anti china sentiment globally. Health experts speculate that the virus has traveled from Bats to Humans, possibly through another animal species.
Apart from over 12,000 people currently infected in China leading to its isolation, about 130 cases have been confirmed in at least 25 countries including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, SriLanka, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, the UAE, the United States, India and Vietnam.
Other social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit, confirmed that they do not consider inaccurate information about health to be a violation of their policies. Other companies to ban health misinformation include TikTok and Pinterest, which are already removing false information on coronavirus.
Facebook’s move is appreciative, and could bring about a much needed change in the overall perception around the company. This perception has been tarnished by privacy and content malpractices over the past few months.