Facebook will Remove Harmful Misinformation About COVID-19

Facebook announced that they are limiting misinformation about COVID-19. Facebook has directed over 2 billion people to resources from the WHO and other health authorities through their COVID-19 Information Center and pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram with over 350 million people clicking through to learn more.

The goal appears to be to prevent the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. To me, it makes sense to do this because some of the misinformation being spread around about this virus is dangerous. Facebook says that they have removed thousands of pieces of misinformation that could cause harm. Two examples of that misinformation are: drinking bleach cures the virus (it doesn’t), and physical distancing is ineffective at preventing the disease from spreading (in reality, physical distancing works very well).

We’re going to start showing messages in News Feed to people who have liked, reacted, or commented on harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that we have since 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. We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook. People will start seeing these messages in the coming weeks.

To help people find the facts about COVID-19, Facebook has enlisted the help of over 60 fact-checking organizations that review and rate content in more than 50 languages around the world. Facebook added eight new fact-checking partners since the beginning of March, including MyGoPen in Taiwan, the AFP and dpa in the Netherlands, Reuters in the UK, and others.

The Guardian clarifies that Facebook’s new policy applies only to misinformation that Facebook considers likely to contribute to “imminent physical harm”, such as claims about “cures” or statements that physical distancing is not effective. However, Facebook is not taking down other misinformation about COVID-19, such as conspiracy theories about the virus’s origins.

In my opinion, people who go online and attempt to convince frightened people to drink bleach should be held accountable for their actions. Removing harmful misinformation like that is a good start, but Facebook should also take away the accounts of the people who are spreading harmful misinformation during a pandemic.