Social media and technology company Facebook continued its commitment in helping to keep people safe and informed globally, and locally through local partnerships, and updates to its platform. As global numbers continue to rise, and with Coronavirus (COVID-19) reported in a number of countries across Africa, including now in Eastern Africa; Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda, Facebook has put in place the following measures to curb the wide spread of misinformation;
- Supporting health organisations– Facebook continues to partner with organizations like health agencies and NGOs who are actively using its platforms to share accurate information about the situation, including on Pages. To help bolster and extend these efforts, the company is also providing ad credits to the World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Supporting global health organisations in fundraising– 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.
- Medical Supply Hoarding/Coronavirus Ad and Commerce Policy Changes – Our ongoing work to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus also applies to advertising. 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
- Limiting misinformation and harmful content– Our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work in reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus.
- Removing Harmful Health Misinformation: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
- On Instagram– We’ve moved WHO and other authoritative sources to top of Search, so people can easily find the most accurate information. We’ll also no longer allow people to search for COVID-19 related AR effects, unless they are developed in partnership with a recognized health organization
- Facebook Groups– We are focused on connecting people with authoritative sources and reducing the spread of harmful misinformation, including in Groups. Anyone who searches for Coronavirus related groups is directed to credible information from health organizations. We already reduce the distribution of any groups that repeatedly share false news, and we are also starting to remove coronavirus related groups and pages from the recommendations we show people
- Creation of theBusiness Resource Hub – Supporting businesses being affected – directly or indirectly – by the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Hub features resources and recommendations to help small businesses stay connected to customers and keep their business on track. It also includes quick and easy access to credible and accurate information about COVID-19 to help small businesses and the communities they serve, stay informed.
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.”