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Facebook will send messages to users engaging with fake news

Facebook is sending myth-busting messages to users who have interacted with harmful misinformation about coronavirus.

The social network said messages will start appearing in news feeds of any users who had interacted with a post that had since been removed by the company.

This includes people who have liked, reacted, commented or clicked on the harmful content, such as false claims that 5G is linked to the health pandemic. 

Facebook said its messages will connect people with advice from the World Health Organisation‘s ‘mythbusters’ page, which debunks false claims about COVID-19. 

Facebook users who have interacted with misleading posts will start seeing these messages in the coming weeks. 

Facebook users who have interacted with fake news about the coronavirus will see a message in their news feed urging them to visit the WHO website and share a WHO link

Facebook users who have interacted with fake news about the coronavirus will see a message in their news feed urging them to visit the WHO website and share a WHO link

Facebook users who have interacted with fake news about the coronavirus will see a message in their news feed urging them to visit the WHO website and share a WHO link

The tech giant said the aim is to try to stop the spread of misinformation both within and outside of its own platform.

‘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,’ said Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.   

Facebook is also launching a new program called ‘Get the Facts’ as a section of its COVID-19 Information Centre – a dedicated section of the social network for news and reputable sources about the pandemic. 

COVID-19 Information Centre appears at the top of users' Feeds with authoritative information from organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the NHS

COVID-19 Information Centre appears at the top of users' Feeds with authoritative information from organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the NHS

COVID-19 Information Centre appears at the top of users’ Feeds with authoritative information from organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the NHS 

This ‘Get the Facts’ section, which is only being released in the US for now, features articles written by independent fact-checking partners that debunk misinformation about the coronavirus.   

Facebook’s fact checking partners have already been working to reduce the spread of fake news as part of a feature called ‘fact check overlay’. 

Offending content posted by friends on the site just appears in the news feed as a blank grey box after it has been deemed dangerous by Facebook, which users can still choose to view.    

Facebook said that in March alone, it displayed warnings on about 40 million posts related to COVID-19 based on 4,000 articles reviewed by independent fact-checkers. 

When Facebook users saw the warning labels, 95 per cent of the time they did not go on to view the original content.  

Once information on the site is rated false by independent fact-checkers, the network reduces its distribution, applies warning labels with more context and finds duplicates. 

After being checked by independent fact checkers and deemed false, content such as photos initially appear as a blanked-out square

After being checked by independent fact checkers and deemed false, content such as photos initially appear as a blanked-out square

After being checked by independent fact checkers and deemed false, content such as photos initially appear as a blanked-out square

Facebook said it has already removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of COVID-19 related misinformation that could lead to ‘imminent physical harm’ – examples of which include dangerous claims like ‘drinking bleach cures the virus’. 

It is now also removing claims that physical distancing doesn’t help prevent the spread of coronavirus and false claims that 5G technology causes the symptoms or contraction of COVID-19.

The social network’s new update follows news that more 5G phone masts were vandalised by conspiracy theorists over the Easter weekend, including some providing internet to the NHS’s temporary Nightingale hospital in Birmingham.   

Facebook said it has directed more than two billion people to resources from WHO and other health authorities through its COVID-19 Information Centre and pop ups on Facebook and Instagram.  

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that since the start of March, it has also expanded fact-checking coverage to more than a dozen new countries.

The social network works work with over 60 fact-checking organisations that review content in more than 50 languages, he said. 

WHAT ARE TECH COMPANIES DOING ABOUT COVID-19?  

Facebook

The social network is giving the World Health Organisation as many free ads as it needs in a bid to get accurate health information to users of the platform as clearly as possible. 

It also launched the ‘Coronavirus Information Centre’ – a dedicated webpage with COVID-19 resources and advice. 

This is being promoted at the top of users’ News Feeds, directing them to the latest updates and guidance from the NHS and WHO.  

Facebook is also making its Workplace platform available to governments and emergency services for free in a bid to help those dealing with the coronavirus.

All government organisations globally, at a national or local level, are eligible to claim 12 months of free access to the premium tier of Workplace.  

Twitter

Twitter also recently resolved to delete tweets from its site that promote conspiracy theories, misleading or dangerous advice and other harmful ideas relating to coronavirus. 

Tweets that deny ‘established scientific facts’ and expert guidance regarding the virus will be marked as harmful and removed, the site said in a blog post

It gave examples of inaccurate tweets that would be deleted swiftly, including ‘people with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production’, ‘use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19’ and ‘the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands!’.  

Google

Google also teamed up with WHO to launch an SOS Alert dedicated to the coronavirus, which appears at the top of search results when users type ‘coronavirus’. 

The search engine is prioritising information on the virus from the WHO, including official WHO updates on the spread of the virus and how to stay safe.   

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