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Keeping People Safe and Informed About the Coronavirus

By Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook, Head of Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. 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. Here are some specific steps we are taking.

Limiting Misinformation and Harmful Content

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. When they rate information as false, we limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram and show people accurate information from these partners. We also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.

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.

Providing Helpful Information and Support

Our platforms are already being used to help people connect with accurate information about the situation, including from global and regional health organizations. We’ve been closely coordinating with leading health organizations to make this easier and more accessible for people using Facebook and Instagram.

For example, we will help people get relevant and up-to-date information from partners through messages on top of News Feed on Facebook; these will be deployed based on guidance from the WHO. When people search for information related to the virus on Facebook or tap a related hashtag on Instagram, we will surface an educational pop-up with credible information. We have also provided free advertising credits to enable organizations to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook and Instagram in affected regions and are discussing ways to provide additional assistance and support to health authorities.

Empowering Partners with Data Tools

We are empowering leading researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan by sharing aggregated and anonymized mobility data and high resolution population density maps to help inform their forecasting models for the spread of the virus as part of our broader Data for Good program. We may expand these efforts to a broader set of partners in the coming weeks. We are also helping partners understand how people are talking about the issue online through tools like CrowdTangle to better inform their efforts.

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.

We will provide updates on additional steps we are taking in coordination with global and regional partners as the situation continues to evolve.

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