Facebook doesn't have a great track record when it comes to fighting the spread of misinformation, but the company is now making an effort to fight misinformation related to the coronavirus. The social media giant announced on Tuesday that it will give free advertising to the World Health Organization (WHO) to educate people about the coronavirus and more.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that the social media company has been working with authorities to figure out the best way to respond to this health crisis. He wrote that Facebook wants to make sure people are getting the most accurate information they can.
"If you search for coronavirus on Facebook, you'll see a pop-up that directs you to the World Health Organization or your local health authority for the latest information. If you're in a country where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission, you'll also see it in your News Feed," Zuckerberg wrote. "We're giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support. We'll also give support and millions more in ad credits to other organizations too and we'll be working closely with global health experts to provide additional help if needed."
Zuckerberg says Facebook is also coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF. As we've previously reported, a lot of misinformation is being spread on social media regarding the coronavirus, and Zuckerberg claims Facebook is doing everything it can to help fight the spread of this kind of misinformation.
Facebook will be removing content that contains "false claims and conspiracy theories" about the coronavirus, Zuckerberg says, and people who try to run ads that spread misinformation about the coronavirus will be blocked.
"As well as accessing information, we're also looking at how people can use our services to help contribute to the broader efforts to contain the outbreak. Researchers are already using aggregated and anonymized Facebook data -- including mobility data and population density maps -- to better understand how the virus is spreading," Zuckerberg wrote.
Zuckerberg claims the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which he started with his wife Priscilla Chan in 2015 to support scientific research, was already able to "sequence the full genome of the virus that causes COVID-19 in days" in Cambodia. He says the organization has released a public version of the IDSeq tool to help researchers study the virus.
Outside of fighting misinformation and helping with research, Zuckerberg claims Facebook is simply helping people stay connected when they've been quarantined. He says this allows them to not only talk to their loved ones but learn more about what's happening in the outside world.
The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has so far infected at least 129 Americans. There have been nine deaths reported thus far. It may be over a year before a vaccine is available, but therapeutics should be available within months. Just remember to regularly wash your hands and maybe skip the handshake.
The Inverse analysis
This is the first time in... maybe ever that we've been able to report that Facebook is actually doing something that will be effective to help fight the spread of misinformation. Previous announcements have felt more like PR than an actual strategy. People are very concerned about the coronavirus, and we're sure Facebook is seeing that across its website. Enabling organizations like WHO to more easily share valuable information and removing misinformation that's shared on Facebook is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully Facebook is starting to learn from its past mistakes.