Facebook to steer users to WHO website if they click on stories with ‘coronavirus misinformation’

Facebook announced Thursday the social media platform will begin steering users to the World Health Organization if content editors believe they’ve been exposed to “misinformation” regarding the Wuhan coronavirus.

The decision is one of several “meant to curtail the spread of wrong or misleading claims related to the pandemic,” NBC News reported, adding:

Users who have liked, commented on or reacted to coronavirus misinformation that has been flagged as “harmful” by Facebook and removed will now be directed to a website debunking coronavirus myths from the World Health Organization.

Guy Rosen, the platform’s vice president of integrity, made the announcement in a blog post on the company’s site.

“We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook,” he wrote.

A spokesperson for the company told NBC News that the alert won’t identify any specific posts containing alleged misinformation, adding that the social media behemoth would rely on research indicating repeat exposure, in to fact-checking sites, can sometimes reinforce mistaken opinions and beliefs.

The network adds:

The move by Facebook is just the most recent step in an aggressive and coordinated response by it and other tech companies to promote facts and guidance from reputable sources about the spread of the coronavirus and combat the glut of false information that the WHO in February warned had become a “massive infodemic.”

This comes as criticism of the WHO by U.S. officials up to and including President Donald Trump has increased steadily in recent days as the pandemic has swept through parts of the country, killing roughly 30,000 people as of this writing.

Trump has blasted the WHO as being “China-centric” — that is, far too trusting of and deferential to the Chinese government — which led to his decision earlier this week to halt funding to the organization.

China has also been blamed for underreporting coronavirus sicknesses and especially deaths, something U.S. intelligence agencies believe has been going on now for weeks. Also, the U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon now suspect that the virus may actually have escaped from a Chinese bio-research lab near the epicenter city of Wuhan.

As for the WHO itself, the organization took the word of “Chinese authorities” in mid-January, tweeting the falsehood that Beijing had found “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the virus.

Then, on Feb. 1, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Emergencies Program, said it was still possible and thanked the Chinese for giving the world “precious lead time” to prepare for the virus.

Two days later the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was critical of President Trump’s travel ban against China, claiming it was not needed and would “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.”

Interestingly, he said decisions about the virus should be “evidence-based.”

“We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent,” he said as China faced additional travel bans as well as international condemnation.

But now, Mark Zuckerberg wants his platform to refer all users who get “misinformation” about the coronavirus to the one agency many believe is most responsible for its spread worldwide.


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