In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. 
Photo: IANS
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. Photo: IANS

Facebook is working keeping people safe and informed about the coronavirus

By Dhivana Rajgopaul Time of article published Mar 16, 2020

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DURBAN - In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. 

Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in January, Facebook has taken several steps including:

1. Limiting misinformation and harmful content about COVID-19

2. Connecting people to accurate information and helpful resources like the WHO and local health ministries

3. Prohibiting ads intended to create panic or imply that certain products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting the coronavirus

4. Temporarily banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks

5. Giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support 

Facebook is matching $20 million (R334,4 million) in donations to support COVID-19 relief efforts and to help people get relevant and up-to-date resources.

Facebook will start showing more information from @WHO and local health ministries at the top of Instagram’s Feed in some countries.

The social network will no longer allow people to search for COVID-19 related AR effects on Instagram, unless they were developed in partnership with a recognised health organisation. 

To help people stay safe and informed during the COVID-19 outbreak, Facebook is providing additional resources to the Facebook community. A shared blog post on the Community Hub will help provide accurate information on disease prevention and connect community leaders with tools to help them manage their community.  A Business Resource Hub has been created that includes tips and trainings to help businesses navigate challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak and support their customers during this time. 

Facebook is also temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks. The social network will begin to enforce this change over the next few days. Facebook already prohibits people from making health or medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings on commerce surfaces and they also have a dedicated channel for local governments to share listings they believe violate local laws. 

Facebook has teams are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will make necessary updates to their policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg posted about the latest steps Facebook is taking.

Connecting People to Accurate Information and Helpful Resources

Anyone who searches for information related to the virus on Facebook is shown educational pop-ups on top of search results connecting them to expert health organisations. The pop-ups will be available globally over the last few weeks in all languages on Facebook, directing people to the WHO. In several countries we are directing people to their local ministry of health. Moreover, in countries where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission and deaths, Facebook has shown additional messages to people toward the top of News Feed with more information. 

Exploitative Tactics in Ads

Facebook has put a new policy into effect to protect people from those trying to exploit this emergency for financial gain. This means they are now prohibiting ads for products that refer to the coronavirus in ways intended to create a panic or imply that their products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting it. 

As the global public health community works to keep people safe, Facebook is supporting their work in several ways, most especially by working to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus and connecting people to helpful information. 

Limiting Misinformation and Harmful Content

Facebook's global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus. When they rate information as false, spread on Facebook and Instagram is limited and show people accurate information from these partners. Facebook also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.

The social network will also start to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them. Facebook are doing this as an extension of their existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm. Facebook 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.

Providing Helpful Information and Support

Facebook is already being used to help people connect with accurate information about the situation, including from global and regional health organisation and the social network has been closely coordinating with leading health organizations to make this easier and more accessible for people using Facebook and Instagram.


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