Facebook is combating the spread of coronavirus misinformation with accurate information from health organizations by putting the latest news and updatesabout the pandemic at the top of the news feeds of its more than 2.5 billion users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday.
The new feature, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Center, was built in collaboration with top health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. It will include real-time updates from health authorities and organizations and will offer resources and tips on how to stay healthy and support your family and community.
Facebook users in the U.S. and parts of Europe will begin seeing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Center over the next 24 hours, with other countries coming on line in coming days.
“The goal here is going to be to put authoritative information from organizations like the CDC and WHO in front of everyone who uses our services,” Zuckerberg told reporters.
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The announcement is the latest in a series of aggressive steps Facebook and other tech companies are taking to stop the surge of coronavirus misinformation spreading around the globe on social media and to promote the spread of accurate information about COVID-19.
Removing misinformation, such as conspiracy theories, hoaxes and memes, during a pandemic is “one of the most black-and-white situations” Facebook has encountered when moderating content on the platform, Zuckerberg said.
“In the case of a pandemic like this, we are seeing hoaxes that are basically encouraging people who are sick to not get treatment, or to not act in ways that are going to protect the people around them, or in some ways to do things that will be actively harmful,” he said. “There is one hoax going around that, if you think you have this, drink bleach and that will cure it. That’s terrible. That’s obviously going to lead to imminent harm if you do that.”
Cracking down on any coronavirus posts that pose an “imminent risk” of physical harm to Facebook users, particularly at a time when so many people are relying on social media to stay in touch with family and friends and get real-time updates on the pandemic, is imperative, he said.
“Even in the most free expression friendly traditions like the U.S., you long have the precedent that you don’t allow people to yell fire in a crowded room and that, I think, is similar to people spreading dangerous misinformation in a time of an outbreak like this,” Zuckerberg said.
The new feature will roll out first in the U.S., Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the UK and then will extend to more countries, Zuckerberg said.
Facebook is consulting with health organizations and governments in each country to determine what information will be featured, he said.
Articles, videos and posts, some with celebrity cameos, will focus on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with an emphasis on social distancing.
In addition to seeing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Center at the top of your news feeds, you can follow the information center to get updates from health authorities directly in your news feed. In the U.S., Facebook users will find features to help them connect with local groups and ask for help from or offer help in their communities.