Updated: Mar 21, 2020



FEBRUARY 1, 2020


The social media giant has announced plans to reduce the spread of potentially dangerous misinformation related to the Coronavirus which is circulating online.

Facebook has revealed it will now remove posts that are flagged by health authorities which include false information or those promoting conspiracy theories about the pandemic.

A particular focus will be those that discourage people from seeking medical treatment or make false claims about “cures”.

Most social media networks already have in place terms and conditions banning people from posting hateful and defamatory information, but in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election where social media networks were accused of allowing 'fake news' to spread, social media networks are now facing pressure to ensure their platforms don't incite panic or cause harm.

In a post, Facebook has said it will use its existing fact checkers to review and expose misinformation, additionally notifying the individual that shared the information that it had been flagged as false. Its main focus will be on the posts making claims that are designed to discourage treatment and ones relating to false cures.

The social media behemoth wants to prioritise legitimate sources of information by letting select organisations run free ads that help educate people about the virus and also boosting posts that fall in line with health experts guidance to the top of users' Facebook feeds. It did not specify which organisations would be included.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, is blocking certain flagged hashtags linked to the virus.

In the last four weeks, there have been over 15 million tweets about the Coronavirus, and that trend looks set to continue. Twitter has taken a different approach.

Twitter has launched a prompt that appears when users search for Coronavirus encouraging them to use official channels, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) for information, beneath a bold headline that reads "Know the facts".

A company Twitter spokesman told CNN Business, that it had not seen a coordinated increase in disinformation related to the virus, but would remain vigilant on the issue.

Google has also stepped up efforts this week to guide users to verified sources on the subject. When using Google and searching for information regarding the the Coronavirus, it will pull up a special notice with updates from the WHO. The same WHO that were the last to announce the Coronavirus as a global emergency.

It would appear overall that social media users will be fed an online newsfeed diet of information coming directly from the World Health Organisation, the very entity that was the last to officially recognise the seriousness and potential threat of the virus to begin with.

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