Skip to Content
MIT Technology Review

Facebook will now take down posts that spread coronavirus misinformation

Category:
coronaviruscoronavirus

The news: Facebook has started deleting posts that contain false claims about the coronavirus, especially ones spreading dangerous misinformation about treatment—such as that drinking bleach cures the virus—and incorrect advice about available health resources. 

Why it matters: This policy change, announced in a blog post, marks a welcome break from Facebook’s usual approach to false information. At best, misinformation flagged by its global team of fact-checkers has been downgraded in news feeds. But this still allows falsehoods to spread across the network and pop up in searches. Facebook started downgrading posts containing false information about the coronavirus last week, but misinformation continued to be shared in private groups set up to discuss the outbreak. This appears to have prompted Facebook to begin removing offending posts entirely.  

Social responsibility: Many would like to see this policy spread to other forms of misinformation, including false political ads or false claims about vaccines and cancer cures, but Facebook has given no indication that this will happen. Meanwhile, Twitter and YouTube are also rife with misinformation. Twitter says there have been 15 million tweets about the virus in the last four weeks, and the trend looks set to continue. At least there is no evidence of a coordinated attempt to spread deliberate falsehoods. 

Twitter, too: When people search for information about the virus on Twitter, the company now directs them to official pages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Google is directing people to the WHO.