Facebook and Instagram lower video bitrate to ease internet strain

24 Mar 2020

Image: PA

Videos on Facebook and Instagram will switch to a lower resolution as millions of people are told to stay indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook has become the latest service to lower video bitrates to help prevent internet congestion during the coronavirus pandemic. The social media giant said it would temporarily reduce the video quality of content on Facebook and Instagram in Europe.

It follows Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube confirming similar moves last week, after concerns were raised about the ability of internet networks to handle increases in user traffic as millions stay at home during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bitrate is the amount of data streamed per second when watching a video online.

“To help alleviate any potential network congestion, we will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Europe,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“We are committed to working with our partners to manage any bandwidth constraints during this period of heavy demand, while also ensuring people are able to remain connected using Facebook apps and services during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Facebook has also revealed that more than 1m people on the platform in the UK have now joined more than 1,000 Covid-19-related local community support groups, offering help and assistance to those around them.

The social network also announced the launch of a new Coronavirus Information Centre in the UK, which will be promoted at the top of people’s News Feeds and direct them to the latest updates and guidance from the NHS and the World Health Organization (WHO).

How the Coronavirus Information Centre will appear on the Facebook app.

The new Coronavirus Information Centre will appear at the top of Facebook News Feeds. Image: Facebook

Clamping down on disinformation

Social media has been criticised for failing to remove disinformation linked to the pandemic, with wide-ranging reports of accounts posting false treatments for the illness, as well as advertising designed to capitalise on fear around the virus.

The UK government and the NHS have warned the public to be aware of misleading information, and platforms including Facebook, Google and Twitter are now placing more official information prominently on their services.

Steve Hatch, Facebook’s vice-president for northern Europe, said: “At this challenging and unprecedented time, we’re committed to doing everything we can to help people using our platforms stay safe, informed and connected.

“Our Coronavirus Information Centre will connect people to latest guidance from the NHS as well as posts about prevention and social distancing actions we can all take to keep our family and community safe.

“This builds on our work over the last month pointing people to NHS advice whenever they search for coronavirus on Facebook or click on a hashtag on Instagram.”

– PA Media