Facebook Details Plans to Curtail Misinformation About Coronavirus

The social network is working with third-party fact-checkers, health organizations

Facebook is providing free advertising credits to organizations running coronavirus education campaigns Zuraisham Salleh/iStock

Facebook responded to the World Health Organization’s declaration that coronavirus is a public health emergency of international concern by outlining the steps it is taking to prevent misinformation and harmful content about the virus on its platform.

Head of health Kang-Xing Jin said in a Newsroom post that the social network’s third-party fact-checkers are reviewing content and debunking false claims related to coronavirus and, when information is found to be inaccurate, its distribution is limited on Facebook and Instagram, and people are directed to accurate information.

Notifications are sent to people sharing or trying to share flagged content, alerting them that it has been fact-checked.

Facebook will also begin removing content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by global health organizations and local health authorities.

Jin wrote, “We’re focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions. This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods—like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus—or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available. We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can.”

The social network will also coordinate with health organizations to provide relevant and timely information via messages that will appear atop users’ News Feeds, with those messages to be deployed based on guidance from the WHO.

Jin added that Facebook is providing free advertising credits to organizations running coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook and Instagram in affected regions, as well as discussing ways to provide additional assistance and support to health authorities.

The social network is using aggregated and anonymized mobility data and high-resolution population-density maps to help researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan inform their forecasting models for the spread of the virus, and Jin said this initiative may expand to more partners in the coming weeks.

And Facebook is helping its partners understand how coronavirus is being discussed online via its CrowdTangle tool.

Jin concluded, “Not all of these steps are fully in place. It will take some time to roll them out across our platforms and step up our enforcement methods. We will provide updates on additional steps we are taking in coordination with global and regional partners as the situation continues to evolve.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.