Facebook to raise awareness on coronavirus

The deadly virus has killed more than 3,200 people, with more than 93,500 infected

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has outlined steps the social network and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will take to spread information about the coronavirus and take down false claims about the virus.

The deadly virus, also known as Covid-19, has killed more than 3,200 people, with more than 93,500 infected.

In a statement, Zuckerberg said the app would focus on three areas: providing accurate information, stopping misinformation and providing data for research.

Zuckerberg said when anyone searches for information related to the virus on Facebook, a pop-up will take them directly to expert health organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

We’ve launched these globally over the past few weeks in all languages on Facebook, directing people to the WHO. In several countries, we are directing people to their local ministry of health, he said. Moreover, in countries where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission and deaths, we’ve shown additional messages to people towards the top of News Feed with more information.

He said Facebook would give national ministries of health and organisations free advertising to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus. We’re giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support. We’ll also give support and millions more in ad credits to other organisations too and we’ll be working closely with global health experts to provide additional help if needed.

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook will limit the spread of false information about the coronavirus by removing “false posts and conspiracy theories”. 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. So we’re removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations.

We’re also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation, claiming that their product can cure the disease. As well as accessing information, we’re also looking at how people can use our services to help contribute to the broader efforts to contain the outbreak, he said.

Zuckerberg said researchers were using aggregated and anonymised Facebook data, including mobile data and population density maps, to better understand how the virus is spreading.

He said, scientific tools 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.

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.

IDSeq tool is free cloud-based, open-source software that scientists use to help them determine the cause of infectious diseases.

Zuckerberg said technology can also help people adapt to the outbreak and they will co-ordinate with leading health organisations to make that easier and ensure that more accessible information is available on other platforms, such as Instagram.

Communities around the world are dealing with quarantines and other disruptions to their daily lives, and they’re using the internet more to stay connected even when they can’t be together in person. We know from previous emergencies that in times of crisis people rely on communication tools even more than usual. That means that as well as helping people access information, we have a responsibility to make sure our services are stable and reliable to handle this load – and we take that seriously too, he said.

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