With the emerging global public health crisis Facebook has initiated coordinated measures to control the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Below are select clips from Facebook’s recent press release, Keeping People Safe and Informed About the Coronavirus, detailing their initiative. Twitter has undertaken similar efforts to ensure that reliable health information is available to the public.
As a thought experiment, substitute vaccines and measles in the appropriate places. Then tell me that these platforms have no ability to stifle the spread of vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories. To date, the failed response to control dangerous misinformation around vaccines has contributed to the reemergence of preventable childhood diseases like measles.
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.
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.
We 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. We are doing this as an extension of our existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm. We’re focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions. This 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. We 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 as we can.
This response by Facebook and Twitter represents appropriate action in the face of an international public health crisis. Going forward we should cite the coronavirus response as evidence of big social media’s capacity and social responsibility to thwart the spread of dangerous medical misinformation.
Image via the Centers for Disease Control