Facebook fights spread of misinformation about virus online

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

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

In collaboration with the WHO, Twitter is also working towards launching a dedicated search prompt for India to ensure that when an individual searches a hashtag they are immediately met with authoritative health information from the right sources up top, IANS has learned.

"We are doing this as an extension of our existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm", Facebook's Head of Health, Kang-Xing Jin, said in a statement.

Facebook will target claims flagged by health officials that could harm users who believe them, with a focus on claims that discourage people from getting treatment or "taking appropriate precautions", Jin said.

Social media giants have been faced with an onslaught of hoaxes, conspiracies and false claims amid the spread of coronavirus.

Jin said Facebook is coordinating with health organizations to help find specific information about the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday declared the outbreak "a public health emergency of worldwide concern". Other countries are reporting cases as people who have traveled to China return home.

Google announced Thursday that when people search for information about the coronavirus, it will pull up a special notice with updates from the WHO.

In 2018, 658 women died while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy, and there were 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, CNN reported.

Similarly, Twitter said in a blogpost Wednesday that it had seen "over 15 million Tweets" on the topic of coronavirus in the past month, "and that trend looks set to continue".

It's notable that Facebook has acknowledged misinformation relating to the virus outbreak as a real threat to users and not merely a nuisance. It will restrict or block hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, too.

It's a significant move for Facebook, which often declines to remove conspiracy theories, even if they've been debunked by the company's fact checkers.

Facebook's announcement marked a bold step to combat misinformation by a company that has drawn fire for allowing political campaigns to run advertisements containing false claims.

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