In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in January, we’ve taken several steps including:
- Limiting misinformation and harmful content about COVID-19
- Connecting people to accurate information and helpful resources like the WHO and local health ministries
- Prohibiting ads intended to create panic or imply that certain products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting the coronavirus
- Temporarily banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks
- Giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support
We’ll continue to add to this post as we announce updates.
To help people stay safe and informed during the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re providing additional resources to our community. We shared a blog post on our Community Hub to provide accurate information on disease prevention and connect community leaders with tools to help them manage their community. We also created a Business Resource Hub that includes tips and trainings to help businesses navigate challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak and support their customers during this time.
In addition, we’re helping local governments and emergency response organizations more easily communicate with their communities. As COVID-19 has spread in the US, local governments have used Facebook to share critical information with their communities about this fast evolving situation. Because of the increasing need to get timely and accurate information to local communities, we’re expanding access to Facebook local alerts to even more municipal governments, state and local emergency response organizations and law enforcement agencies. State and local public health agencies will now also have the ability to push out timely, accurate information to their local communities. And we’ll provide additional training to partners as they start using local alerts to share best practices for using the tool most effectively.
Eligible organizations and government agencies can request access to the local alerts tool here.
Update on March 6, 2020 at 6:25PM PT:
We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks. We’ll begin to enforce this change over the next few days. We already prohibit people from making health or medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings on commerce surfaces, including those listings that guarantee a product will prevent someone from contracting it. We also have a dedicated channel for local governments to share listings they believe violate local laws. Our teams are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency.
Update: We’re banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks. We’re monitoring COVID19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency. We’ll start rolling out this change in the days ahead.
— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) March 7, 2020
Update on March 6, 2020 at 10:52AM PT:
Today we shared updates about the changes we’ve made to keep the Instagram community safe and informed on COVID-19.
We’re removing known harmful misinformation related to COVID-19, and when someone taps on a hashtag related to COVID-19, we show resources from @WHO, @CDC and local health authorities. pic.twitter.com/Dw2Y8ZwfaI
— Instagram Comms (@InstagramComms) March 6, 2020
Finally, we’re thinking through a longer term solution to help connect people searching COVID-19 related terms with credible information. In the meantime, we’re showing the accounts of leading health organizations in these searches to better connect people to credible resources. pic.twitter.com/RUNwJh94Cf
— Instagram Comms (@InstagramComms) March 6, 2020
Update on March 3, 2020 at 7:05PM PT:
CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted about the latest steps Facebook is taking.
Update on February 26, 2020 at 7:13PM PT:
As world health officials issue new guidance and warnings about coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re continuing our work to connect people to information from regional and local health organizations and limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus.
Connecting People to Accurate Information and Helpful Resources
Anyone who searches for information related to the virus on Facebook is shown educational pop-ups on top of search results connecting them to expert health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO). We’ve launched these globally over the last 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. For example, in the US we are directing people to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in Singapore, we’re directing people to the Singapore Ministry of Health. Moreover, in countries where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission and deaths, we’ve shown additional messages to people toward the top of News Feed with more information.
Exploitative Tactics in Ads
Yesterday we put a new policy into effect to protect people from those trying to exploit this emergency for financial gain. This means we are now prohibiting ads for products that refer to the coronavirus in ways intended to create a panic or imply that their products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting it. For example, ads for face masks that imply they are the only ones still available or claim that they are guaranteed to prevent the virus from spreading will not be allowed to run on our platforms.
Originally published on January 30, 2020 at 5:40PM PT:
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. As the global public health community works to keep people safe, Facebook is supporting their work in several ways, most especially by working to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus and connecting people to helpful information. Here are some specific steps we are taking.
Limiting Misinformation and Harmful Content
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.
We will also start to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them. We are doing this as an extension of our existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm. We’re focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions. 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.
Providing Helpful Information and Support
Our platforms are already being used to help people connect with accurate information about the situation, including from global and regional health organizations. We’ve been closely coordinating with leading health organizations to make this easier and more accessible for people using Facebook and Instagram.
For example, we will help people get relevant and up-to-date information from partners through messages on top of News Feed on Facebook; these will be deployed based on guidance from the WHO. When people search for information related to the virus on Facebook or tap a related hashtag on Instagram, we will surface an educational pop-up with credible information. We have also provided free advertising credits to enable organizations to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook and Instagram in affected regions and are discussing ways to provide additional assistance and support to health authorities.
Empowering Partners with Data Tools
We are empowering leading researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan by sharing aggregated and anonymized mobility data and high resolution population density maps to help inform their forecasting models for the spread of the virus as part of our broader Data for Good program. We may expand these efforts to a broader set of partners in the coming weeks. We are also helping partners understand how people are talking about the issue online through tools like CrowdTangle to better inform their efforts.
Not all of these steps are fully in place. It will take some time to roll them out across our platforms and step up our enforcement methods.
We will provide updates on additional steps we are taking in coordination with global and regional partners as the situation continues to evolve.