Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have been announcing new measures to contain the spread of false news about the coronavirus. The goal is to tackle the growing number of fake news related to disease prevention, including false government communications, and conspiracy theories about the origin of the outbreak in China. The companies revealed the measures after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the new virus represents a public health emergency of international interest. See below how each platform will deal with cases of misinformation on the Internet.
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Facebook, Google and Twitter announce measures against fake news about coronavirus – Photo: Disclosure / Facebook
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Coronavirus posts with the potential to harm users’ health will be deleted from Facebook and Instagram. Publications that spread conspiracy theories involving the origin of the virus will also be treated in this way.
The move goes against the company’s usual policy for dealing with fake news on its platforms. Until then, publications checked by partner agencies could only lose momentum and earn a stamp warning if it was a lie or distortion. This is how the website dealt, for example, with anti-vaccine movement campaigns that took place recently in Pakistan.
Mark Zuckerberg’s company, however, has not released similar plans aimed at WhatsApp, which is seen as a frequent vector for disinformation campaigns. Facebook points to end-to-end encryption as an obstacle to prevent fake news and has resorted to functions that restrict the forwarding of messages to contain the distribution of chains with false information.
Google displays news from news portals and official sources in the first results about the coronavirus – Photo: Reproduction / Paulo Alves
Google launched an SOS alert for coronavirus in partnership with WHO to ensure that credible information is prioritized in the search. When searching the service, users located in danger zones see a new red banner with critical information about the case, including safety tips and updates from the Organization’s official channels. The tool is normally used by the company to deal with natural disasters.
In locations where the alert is not active, the search engine returns updated news from the main vehicles and data from reliable sources. The Brazilian Google displays the news related to the theme published by the main portals in the country, in addition to pages from the state Health Department and the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) among the first results.
YouTube highlights channels checked for coronavirus – Photo: Reproduction / Paulo Alves
YouTube also announced changes to prioritize truthful information about the coronavirus. According to the company, the algorithms of the site are giving more importance to videos published by more reliable sources. In a quick search using the term “coronavirus” carried out by the dnetc, the platform shows videos posted by major media outlets in Brazil and the world. In the “Em Alta” section there are also publications made by official foreign media channels such as CBC News, Sky News, Washington Post and the France Presse agency.
Twitter highlights Ministry of Health article for searches on coronavirus – Photo: Reproduction / Paulo Alves
According to Twitter, users looking for coronavirus-related hashtags have begun to be directed to government agencies that have official information about the case. In Brazil, whoever searches on the topic will see, at the top of the microblog, a link to an article on the Ministry of Health website explaining the main facts about the virus.
How to identify fake news
The best way to deal with fake news is to never pass it on when the information doesn’t come from a reliable source. When in doubt, the user must do a search on Google and confirm the fact from news from recognized vehicles and from official websites of the government and entities such as the World Health Organization. It is also possible to search if the news was checked by a specialized agency operating in Brazil.
Among the posts about the coronavirus already identified as false by these vehicles are, for example, false prevention and cure tips that recommend things like drinking bleach or water with salt to protect yourself from the disease. Among the main conspiracy theories about the origin of the disease are facts denied or completely false, such as the connection of the virus with bats, biological weapons, deliberate plans by the Chinese government and even 5G connectivity.
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