Tech

Facebook to remove misinformation about the coronavirus

Key Points
  • Facebook says it will start removing misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The move comes after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.
  • The firm has gotten into hot water over how it deals with health-related disinformation in the past.
The Facebook logo.
Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook will start removing misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak from its platforms.

In a blog post late Thursday, Facebook Head of Health Kang-Xing Jin said the firm would "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."

"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," Jin said. He added that Instagram would also ban or restrict hashtags and conduct "proactive sweeps" to remove content spreading misinformation about the virus.

The move comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency over the fast-spreading virus, which has infected more than 9,809 people in China, killing 213.

It's not the first tech platform to start taking action over the outbreak however, with Google and Twitter also taking steps to tackle misinformation about it. Google for instance has started displaying information from the WHO about the virus in search results while its video-sharing platform YouTube is promoting videos on it from credible sources.

Twitter meanwhile has adjusted its search prompt to lift information from "authoritative health sources" to the top of the page when users make searches about the coronavirus.

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Facebook has gotten into hot water over how it deals with health-related disinformation in the past. The social media giant was criticized for failing to remove anti-vaccination posts last year, instead opting to lower such content in the rankings of people's feeds.

It announced a partnership with the WHO in September aimed at steering users toward accurate vaccination information from the United Nations' health agency.

Facebook's latest move on countering misinformation comes as the company faces intense regulatory scrutiny around the world, an issue that has weighed heavily on the company's share price of late. The firm lost as much as $50 billion in market value this week after reporting a rise in expenses on the back of privacy and security updates.

The company said Thursday that it would continue working with independent fact-checkers to limit the spread of false coronavirus claims and instead show accurate information on its platform. It will also run educational pop-ups with "credible information" and share data with researchers to help them forecast the spread of the virus.

"Not all of these steps are fully in place. It will take some time to roll them out across our platforms and step up our enforcement methods," said Jin. "We will provide updates on additional steps we are taking in coordination with global and regional partners as the situation continues to evolve."