Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will run adverts about the coronavirus to defend against misinformation.
Zuckerberg said Facebook would give the World Health Organisation (WHO) as many free adverts as it needs to respond to the coronavirus threat.
He added that Facebook would be allocating “millions” more in advertising credits to other organisations as part of this drive.
“We’re focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information,” said Zuckerberg.
“This is critical in any emergency, but it’s especially important when there are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of infection.”
Zuckerberg explained how the adverts will be displayed.
“If you search for coronavirus on Facebook, you’ll see a pop-up that directs you to the World Health Organization or your local health authority for the latest information.”
“If you’re in a country where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission, you’ll also see it in your News Feed.”
Protecting against misinformation
Alongside actively educating users about the coronavirus, Facebook will also be fighting back against misinformation and hoaxes.
“It’s important that everyone has a place to share their experiences and talk about the outbreak, but as our community standards make clear, it’s not okay to share something that puts people in danger,” said Zuckerberg.
He said that Facebook will remove false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations.
Zuckerberg said Facebook will also block adverts that try to exploit the situation – such as those that claim to sell cures for the disease.
Solving the crisis
Beyond its information-based measures, Facebook is also trying to use its services to help contain the outbreak.
“Researchers are already using aggregated and anonymized Facebook data — including mobility data and population density maps — to better understand how the virus is spreading,” said Zuckerberg.
He added that scientific tools that have been developed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative can help with this too.
“Through a partnership between our philanthropy and the Gates Foundation, researchers in Cambodia were able to sequence the full genome of the virus that causes COVID-19 in days, making it much easier and faster for them to identify if people had the virus,” Zuckerberg said.
“The team created a new public version of the IDSeq tool so scientists everywhere can study the full genome within the broader context of coronavirus sequences uploaded around the world,” he added.