21 March 2020
As the coronavirus disease from Wuhan (China) is spreading at a tremendous rate globally, people are getting concerned about this situation everywhere. As of writing this, the current count of confirmed cases in India has now touched 236, whereas 4 people have already died due to the virus. Although it's a deadly virus and you should take the necessary precautions, but the number one thing you should avoid doing is spread any misinformation.
Facebook, Google, YouTube, Microsoft & Twitter are working with each other and health authorities to prevent the spread of misinformation and combat fraudulent/harmful content on their platforms. They are joining efforts to ensure that people see all the accurate info about COVID-19.
Facebook, Google and its subsidiary YouTube, Microsoft and its subsidiary LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter all co-signed the statement - "We're helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world".
For years, fighting the spread of misinformation has been declared a crucial goal of several of the world's largest social media companies. Our country's fight against the virus has many obstacles currently, but the familiar foes pop up once in a while. The major one among these is the spread of 'fake news' among the people.
From offering unverified home remedies to tackle the virus, to bogus health advisories asking people to avoid foods such as ice cream & chicken; Indian phones are flooded with a lot of misinformation these days.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) have joined WhatsApp in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak in an effort to restrict the menace of growing fake news or misinformation that tends to spread like wildfire on the extensively used instant messaging platform. WHO can be reached out at +41-798931892 & PIB will be available at +91-8799711259 on WhatsApp.
Facebook started inserting a box into the news feed, which will direct the user to the 'Centres for Disease Control’s' page about COVID-19. Although this may seem a minor measure, it's like a first step to discard all the false claims & conspiracy theories, amidst this chaos. They have launched the 'Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Centre', which includes real-time updates from national health authorities & global organisations like WHO.
Facebook has temporarily banned the advertisements which are associated with selling medical face masks. They are also instructing their content reviewers to prohibit content that makes medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings, including those listings that guarantee a product will prevent someone from contracting the virus.
Twitter has also taken steps to ban the content related to COVID-19, which may cause harm and spread false information. Similar to the measures taken by Facebook, whenever you search for COVID-19 on twitter, it will take you to a page featuring stories from public health organizations & credible news sources. Facebook & Twitter both have given free ad credits to global health organisations and non-profits.
Google took a step to make life easier while we are working from home, giving away free advanced streaming tools to all the G-Suite customers. They also recently announced a 24-hour coronavirus incident response team, to remove fake information from the search results and YouTube, while also promoting the spread of accurate information from various health agencies.
YouTube has added a link to the WHO page on the virus outbreak at the top of search results. In the early days, Buzz Feed found conspiracy videos about the virus on YouTube — particularly in India, where one explainer, with a false description of the pandemic’s origin, racked up 13 million views before YouTube removed it.
As the tech giants are taking measures to tackle misinformation, we should also play our part equally - in fighting this pandemic.
This is a time to be prudent, not a time to panic and spread lies
*Sources- WHO, Business Insider, The Verge, Financial Express