As global numbers continue to rise, and with Coronavirus (COVID-19) reported in a number of countries across Africa, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda, Facebook has embarked on efforts to deal with misinformation on its platform.
In a statement, the social networking giant said it will continue to support health organisations like health agencies and NGOs who are actively using its platforms to share accurate information about the situation, including on pages.
Facebook has in addition set up a $10 million fund to support health organisations that are helping to fight the pandemic.
“As people come together on Facebook for this critical relief effort, we’re supporting the UNF/WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund Facebook Fundraiser with $10M in matching donations. We’re also working with the CDC Foundation to launch a Facebook Fundraiser in the coming weeks, and we will also match up to $10M,” the firm said.
The firm said they will fight the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus even in adverts on the platform.
“We launched a new policy prohibiting ads for products that refer to the coronavirus in ways intended to create a panic or imply that their products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting it, 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 are also temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings that sell medical face masks,” the firm said in a statement.
The firm will has engaged fast checkers to sieve out facts from fiction on content published on its platform.
It said it will 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.
It said: “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.”
Commenting on the ongoing efforts in East Africa, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for East and Horn of Africa, Mercy Ndegwa said: “We are committed to partnering with governments, technology companies, and civil society to respond to the immense challenges presented at this time, with new cases confirmed in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda, this is an ever evolving situation, where we will continue to provide support to the relevant bodies locally. We also encourage all users to check the facts via official public health agencies before sharing messages that have been forwarded to them, and to engage directly with trusted and official sources for important information.”