Facebook to warn users over COVID-19 fake news
Users who read, watch or share coronavirus misinformation on Facebook will see pop-up alerts directing them to the World Health Organisation after the social media giant changed how it handles fake news around the epidemic.
The company says it will be rolling out the new feature “in the coming weeks” and that it will direct users to a WHO webpage where myths are debunked.
The new policy applies only to misinformation that Facebook considers likely to contribute to “imminent physical harm”.
Until now, Facebook’s policy has been to delete such posts, but it has changed its stance following a report by the online activist group Avaaz, which claimed it was frequently failing to clamp down on false posts, particularly when they were in languages other than English.
Facebook said the research did not reflect the work it had done recently, but acknowledged that it “appreciated [Avaaz’] partnership in developing the notifications we’ll now be showing people”.
The group found some of the most dangerous falsehoods had received hundreds of thousands of views, including claims such as “black people are resistant to coronavirus” and “coronavirus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide”.
A Facebook spokesman said the move will “connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources, in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook”. It also announced that it is continuing to expand its multilingual network of fact-checkers.
Fadi Quran, Campaign Director at Avaaz said: “Facebook sits at the epicenter of the misinformation crisis. But the company is turning a critical corner today to clean up this toxic information ecosystem, becoming the first social media platform to alert all users who have been exposed to coronavirus misinformation, and directing them to life-saving facts.”
Misinformation has been a major problem during the COVID-19 epidemic, with Downing Street’s anti-fake news unit dealing with up to 10 cases a day. Our guide to helping children spot fake news is packed with useful and timely advice on the subject.