How Social Media Sites Fight Misinformation
If there is one thing that is worse than a pandemic, it is the panic it causes in its wake. People horde food and supplies enough for years and deplete market supplies. People take advantage of the need to stock up on food by overcharging for food, water, and basic necessities despite the fact that in most scenarios, there is enough food and water for everyone.
Misinformation or misleading information often portrayed by the media and social media contributes to the chaos and pandemics. It is one of the key points in a pandemic to retain calmness and order and prevent the spread of misinformation.
Amongst the types of misinformation spread on social media, there were conspiracy theories that the coronavirus was made in a secret government lab in China, there are also many posts about various materials that immunize against the virus. This misinformation aside from spreading panic can be harmful to the public.
Some promises of immunity contained combinations of powders and drinks that according to The Food and Drug Administration was the same as drinking bleach. Additionally, People believing they are now immune to the virus may go out and get infected themselves and infect other people. To that end, Instagram and other social media sites have implemented measures to contribute to that goal.
Instagram Response to Covid-19
Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites amongst millennials, who during the Covid-19 crisis are not as high risk as others. Instagram is a source of humor as well as information about Covid-19, but some of the humor may be getting out of hand and insensitive when thinking about the number of people the virus has killed.
To deal with this, Instagram has banned the creation and searching of Covid-19 augmented reality effects that are available on Instagram stories. One example of such an effect is a Coronavirus scanner that will tell you if you are infected or not based on a scan of your face. The exception to this ban is f the filter was developed in partnership with a recognized health organization.
Additionally, Instagram has started showing more information from health ministries and the World Health Organization (WHO), even if a user does not follow the WHO account, Instagram will place the posts at the top of the feed, in an attempt to spread verified and reliable information to its users.
Instagram also just rolled out stickers related to staying at home in order to prevent the spread of the virus, this is an attempt to use social pressure to get people to isolate themselves as many citizens continue to ignore regulations set out by health officials. A compilation of all friends that use the stay at home sticker is shown at the front of the Instagram story feed.
Facebook Response to Covid-19
Facebook is a platform that is more accommodating to the spread of misinformation due to its text-based nature and links to fake news and articles are able to spread easily. To end the spread of misinformation, Facebook has joined the fight along with other social media sites and has implemented a number of different policies.
Facebook is rolling out a COVID-19 Information Center panel, which is featured at the top of everyone's newsfeed. They have also added more informational prompts when people search for keywords related to COVID-19 so that users access accurate information from a reliable source. Facebook has banned all ads that capitalize on people's fears of the virus in order to make money, this includes masks, alcohol gel, and other similar items. Facebook also removes all posts that provide misinformation regarding the virus as quickly as possible.
They have also allowed more access to local governments to use the local alerts feature of Facebook which detects which area the user is in and provides relevant alerts from municipal governments, state and local emergency response organizations and law enforcement agencies. Facebook is providing health organizations like the WHO have as many free advertisements as possible as well as providing them with anonymous data about people and their movements so health organizations can track the spread of the virus.
In addition to all this, Facebook is supporting small businesses by launching a business resource hub, which includes a grant program offering 100,000,000 in cash grants and ad credits to help small businesses stay alive during the crisis and Facebook has made its Workplace Advanced platform free to government agencies and emergency services for a year.
Google Response to COVID-19
The Google-owned video platform YouTube also joined the group. Since January, they have blocked hundreds of thousands of ads that attempted to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic as well as banning all ads for respirators and medical masks. Youtube also works to remove thousands of videos that share misinformative and potentially dangerous information about the virus using AI technology.
Google has also launched its own website to helps searchers find information about COVID-19 specific to their area including tips, FAQs, and data on the spread. Additionally, anyone who searches coronavirus or COVID-19 will also be shown statistics on the side of the results page.
Other Responses to COVID-19
Apple has integrated some measures within the iPhone to help with COVID-19 if you ask Siri if you have coronavirus, it will ask you a number of questions and give you a recommendation based on the CDC regulations. Apple has also launched a new COVID-19 news section, where users can find verified reporting from trusted news outlets.
Twitter has started prioritizing the verification of health professionals' accounts so that people can discern misinformative posts from real ones. Anyone with an email account associated with a health organization can change their email on their account and will be verified. You should only trust tweets about COVID-19 if there is a blue checkmark near the poster's account.