Facebook is notifying users who have engaged with false Covid-19 claims

17 Apr 2020

Image: © chinnarach/Stock.adobe.com

Facebook will now actively inform users if they have interacted with any content that has been flagged as misinformation by its fact-checking partners.

On Thursday (16 April), Facebook announced that it is taking new steps to slow the spread of misinformation related to Covid-19 on the social media platform.

Facebook’s vice-president of integrity, Guy Rosen, published a statement about the company’s efforts to connect users with accurate information from health experts.

Future Human

According to Rosen, Facebook has directed more than 2bn people to resources from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health authorities through its Covid-19 information centre.

Rosen said that connecting people to credible information “is only half the challenge”, and announced new plans to actively inform users when they encounter misinformation.

Interacting with ‘harmful’ Covid-19 claims

In the coming weeks, Facebook will begin showing messages in the news feed to users who have liked, reacted or commented on misinformation about Covid-19 that the company has flagged and removed.

“These messages will connect people to Covid-19 myths debunked by the WHO, including ones we’ve removed from our platform for leading to imminent physical harm,” Rosen wrote.

“We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth and authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook.”

An example of misinformation that the company has removed for being harmful is claims that drinking bleach cures the virus.

Facebook is also adding a new section to its Covid-19 information centre, called Get the Facts, which will feature fact-checked articles from the company’s partners that debunk misinformation about the coronavirus.

“As this pandemic evolves, we’ll continue focusing on the most effective ways to keep misinformation and dangerous hoaxes about Covid-19 off our apps and ensure people have credible information from health experts to stay safe and informed,” Rosen added.

Facebook’s other plans

The company said that stopping the spread of misinformation and harmful content relating to Covid-19 on its platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is “critically important”.

Rosen highlighted that the company works with more than 60 fact-checking organisations that review and rate content in more than 50 languages. In the past month, Facebook has continued to grow this fact-checking programme.

“Since the beginning of March, we’ve added eight new partners and expanded our coverage to more than a dozen new countries,” Rosen said. “For example, we added MyGoPen in Taiwan, the AFP and DPA in the Netherlands, Reuters in the UK and others.

“To further support the work of our fact-checking partners during this time, we recently announced the first round of recipients of our $1m grant programme in partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network.”

The company said that it has given grants to fact-checking organisations in Italy, Spain, Colombia, India and the Republic of Congo, as well as other nations, and will announce additional funding recipients in the coming weeks.

Facebook also announced a partnership with the European Journalism Centre that will provide funding to news organisations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic