Facebook to crackdown on coronavirus fake news


Facebook said it’s working to ensure users are not exposed to misleading and harmful content over the current coronavirus outbreak.

The firm made the announcement after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus an international public health emergency.

Facebook’s Head of Health, Kang-Xing Jin, issued a statement outlining the company’s efforts to keep fake news elements at bay.

Coronavirus checkers

“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”,  Kang-Xing said.

Real news: The WHO announced the global emergency on its website.

“When they rate information as false, we limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram and show people accurate information from these partners.

“We also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content. This is to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.

“We will also start to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them.”

Facebook said it was doing this as an extension of existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm.

It said it is focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions.

This, it said, 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.

It said it will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram. It is also conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as it can.

Providing helpful information and support

Facebook said its platforms are already being used to help people connect with accurate information about the situation. This includes information from global and regional health organisations.

It’s been coordinating with leading health organisations to make this easier and more accessible for people using Facebook and Instagram.

For example, it’ll help people get relevant, up-to-date information from partners through messages on top of News Feed on Facebook; these will be deployed based on guidance from the WHO.

When people search for information related to the virus on Facebook or tap a related hashtag on Instagram, it will surface an educational pop-up with credible information.

Free Facebook advertising credits

“We’ve provided free advertising credits to enable organisations to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook and Instagram in affected regions. We are discussing ways to provide additional assistance and support to health authorities”, Kang-Xing added.

Empowering partners

Facebook said it is also empowering leading researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan by sharing aggregated and anonymised mobility data and high resolution population density maps to help inform their forecasting models for the spread of the virus. Facebook said it was doing this as part of its broader Data for Good program.

“We may expand these efforts to a broader set of partners in the coming weeks. We are also helping partners understand how people are talking about the issue online through tools like CrowdTangle to better inform their efforts”,  Kang-Xing said.

Not all of these steps are fully in place, the firm said. It will take some time to roll them out across our platforms and step up its enforcement methods.

Facebook said it will provide updates on additional steps in coordination with global and regional partners as the situation evolves.