Social media steps up against COVID-19 misinformation

From YouTube changing its guidelines to Twitter adjusting its search prompt, social media platforms are taking concrete steps to stem the rot of misleading information

e4m by Shreshtha Verma
Updated: Mar 26, 2020 9:04 AM

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Fake news

Social media platforms have become a critical tool for communication, especially during times of crises. But they are a double-edged sword, which can also accelerate the spread of fake news or misinformation. Given the importance of the medium, the central government also wrote to top social media platforms, asking them to curb the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. While the internet is flooded with rumours surround the coronavirus crisis, social media platforms are working closely with the government to reduce the risk of fake news while amplifying the right messages about awareness.

 On March 16, social media platforms declared that they have joined forces to fight against “fraud and misinformation about the virus”. From YouTube changing its guidelines to Twitter adjusting its search prompt in specific countries, these platforms have stepped up to monitor and control the spread of harmful misinformation, which can stymie any relief work.

LinkedIn released a joint statement with Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube: We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

Mahima Kaul, Director, Public Policy, India and South Asia, Twitter also spoke on the initiatives taken by Twitter. Kaul said, we are committed to working with the Government of India and focused on protecting the public conversation and helping people find authoritative sources of information on Twitter.

 In today’s times, social media plays a crucial role in everyone’s life. People are hooked to social media for everything they need. Prasad Shejale, Founder & CEO, Logicserve Digital believes that it becomes important for social media platforms to take strict steps to make sure that no fake news get promoted.

“Considering the massive reach of these platforms, the potential to seamlessly spread information or misinformation among masses, is huge. Overall, if we look at it, the popularity, virality potential and the reach are the major factors that make it critical for social platforms to relook at their guidelines, especially in times like these. A little support from them can go a long way in assisting the authorities to monitor and control the transfer of relevant information,” explained Shejale.

Here's a look at the initiatives taken by different social media platforms to combat fake news or misinformation around Covid-19.

Twitter

Twitter continued with its zero-tolerance policy towards fake news or manipulated information. Tackling the issue of fake news around COVID-19, Twitter recently adjusted its search.

“The search prompt is live in more than 60 countries including India and we’re making the latest facts easy to discover by placing them at the top of people’s timelines and within the Explore tab. In India, we have partnered with the World Health Organization (@WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," told Kaul. 

 Twitter also launched a dedicated COVID-19 Event page in English and Hindi that has the latest facts right at the top of the home timeline. "We’re expanding our safety rules and broadening our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information," she added. In addition to reports, Twitter will enforce this in close coordination with trusted partners, including public health authorities and governments, and continue to use and consult with information from those sources when reviewing content. Most importantly, the social media platform has open lines of communication with relevant stakeholders in the Central and State governments and public health officials, to ensure they can troubleshoot account issues, and seek strategic counsel as they use the power of Twitter to mitigate harm and connect with the public at large,” said Twitter in a statement.

Facebook & Instagram

Facebook and Instagram are also blocking and restricting hashtags on related coronavirus and redirecting them to public health organisations. These two platforms are also sending all the misleading posts to their fact-checking partners to make sure that no wrong news get circulated.

 LinkedIn

Talking to exchange4media, a LinkedIn spokesperson said that their global team of 60-plus LinkedIn editors are curating news and perspectives about the coronavirus from trusted sources. This includes insights on the impact on the economy, how companies are responding, new policies that are being put in place, and best practices for people and companies adjusting how they work. They've also created a new section in the feed -- Trending News -- to feature reliable updates from experts, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is available in 54 countries and 9 languages.

 YouTube

On March 19, YouTube also promised to promote verified and informative videos on Covid-19. YouTube also introduced information panels from WHO or other national health organizations. The largest video-sharing app also providing free ad space to government and NGOs.

 TikTok

On March 23, TikTok announced that it is donating $10 million to the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund. The fund provides essential supplies to frontline healthcare workers. The video-sharing app also has strict guidelines that prohibit harmful content.

 

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