Facebook to send myth-busting messages to viewers of virus misinformation

16 April 2020, 14:04

A woman uses her smartphone under a Facebook logo
Facebook launches private app for couples. Picture: PA

The platform will start showing messages in the News Feed of those who have interacted with Covid-19 misinformation and link them to official advice.

Facebook is to begin showing messages to people who have interacted with misinformation about coronavirus, guiding them to official advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The social network said it would start showing messages in the News Feed to anyone who had interacted with a post that had since been removed by the site.

Facebook said the messages will connect people with the WHO’s Mythbusters page, which details how a number of claims about Covid-19 are not true.

It said the aim is to try to stop the spread of misinformation offline, as well as on its own platform.

Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen said: “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.”

Facebook and wider social media have faced scrutiny over their attempts to stop the spread of misinformation and false claims linked to Covid-19 despite efforts to direct users to official guidance on the virus.

Phone masts have been attacked across the UK after conspiracy theories spread on social media claiming the virus was linked to the roll-out of 5G, despite scientists describing such a theory as “both a physical and biological impossibility” and the industry branding it “utter rubbish”.

Facebook said it has now directed more than two billion people to resources from official health authorities through its own information centre, and displayed warnings on around 40 million posts on the platform which had been rated at least partly false by fact-checkers.

The social network said this process is having an impact, suggesting its figures showed that when people saw these labels, 95% did not go on to view the original content.

However, last week, research from industry regulator Ofcom suggested that nearly half of UK adults online had been exposed to false claims around the virus.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has also met internet giants – including Facebook – to urge a further clampdown on misinformation appearing online.

“To date, we’ve also removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm,” Mr Rosen said.

“Examples of misinformation we’ve removed include harmful claims like drinking bleach cures the virus and theories like physical distancing is ineffective in preventing the disease from spreading.”

Facebook said a new section called Get The Facts is also being introduced to its information centre, which will carry articles written by independent fact-checkers, debunking misinformation around the outbreak.

Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said: “Through this crisis, one of my top priorities is making sure that you see accurate and authoritative information across all of our apps.

“I hope all of you are staying safe, healthy and informed.”

By Press Association

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