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Fake ‘cures’ for coronavirus are spreading on Facebook

Published Feb 1st, 2020 12:01PM EST
coronavirus facebook
Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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All around the world, health officials are scrambling to come up with solutions to the coronavirus. The outbreak popped up in China weeks ago, and thus far it’s infected nearly 10,000 people and has been blamed for over 200 deaths. It’s a major news story, and if there’s one place on the internet where news stories get twisted into unrecognizable versions of their former selves, it’s Facebook.

In a new post on Facebook’s official blog, the company is pledging to monitor the posts regarding coronavirus on its platform. In case you hadn’t noticed, Facebook is absolutely packed with totally false, absolutely incorrect and misleading information about the outbreak. I know, it’s incredibly shocking.

With the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak an international health emergency, there’s plenty of people on social media spreading all kinds of information about the spread of the virus and tips on how to fight it. Unfortunately, lots of information popping up on Facebook is just plain wrong.

Facebook explains:

Our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus. When they rate information as false, we limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram and show people accurate information from these partners. We also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.

The company also says it will start deleting posts that attempt to spread conspiracy theories about the virus, specifically when alerted by “leading global health organizations.”

This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available. We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can.

As the largest social network on the planet, it’s incredibly important that Facebook doesn’t become a haven for bad information about the coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately, it appears the problem already exists, and now it’s up to the company to come up with a way to stop it.