Internet companies like Facebook, Google and ShareChat have stepped up efforts to tackle the spread of rumours and fake news on their platforms amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Facebook is working with eight independent third-party fact-checking entities, covering 11 Indian languages, to identify misinformation around COVID-19, its India Managing Director Ajit Mohan said. Besides, the social media giant is also imparting training to local governments and emergency health organisations on designing impactful health campaigns and accurate messaging with special focus on coronavirus.
“We are deeply committed to being an ally for India as the country fights the Coronavirus outbreak and addresses extraordinary challenges on both the healthcare and economic fronts,” Mohan said in a blogpost. He added that the company is focussed on connecting people to accurate information from health experts, curb misinformation and support local communities and businesses. “We have 8 independent third-party fact-checking partners covering 11 Indian languages as well as English. On Facebook and Instagram, we reduce the distribution of content that these partners label as false,” he said. Mohan added that if users still see this content appear on their news feed, it attaches a label warning of misinformation along with a link to a fact-checked article.
Facebook is also enabling greater collaboration between its fact-checkers and official state and national government in its efforts to notify the public of misinformation. Internet companies like Facebook, Google and ShareChat have stepped up efforts to tackle the spread of rumours and fake news on their platforms amid the coronavirus pandemic that has seen cases rise to almost 19,000 and claimed over 600 lives in the country.
Mohan said Facebook’s teams are also imparting training to local governments and emergency health organisations, given the increasing need to get timely and accurate information to local communities. “We have so far trained the Union Health Ministry, state units of the National Health Mission, State Governments of Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Odisha,” he said.
Mohan added that the company is also making efforts to ensure some of these states use the power of the platform to amplify their efforts through ad credits, as well as strategic marketing support for a scaled coronavirus response.
It has also banned advertisements and commerce listings for masks, hand sanitiser, surface disinfecting wipes and coronavirus testing kits in order to help protect against inflated prices and predatory behaviour.
“And if we see people selling these products in organic posts on Facebook or Instagram, we remove them. We have also banned ads and commerce listings that imply a product guarantees a cure or prevents people from contracting the Coronavirus,” Mohan said.
In India, the company is running a coronavirus information centre on Facebook and a WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub. WhatsApp also has partnerships with the Centre and state governments, while Messenger has a partnership with MyGov India and Health Ministry.