The world is at war at the moment. Except only not with each other as is normally the case, but with the coronavirus that has rapidly spread around the world, including South Africa. It’s something which has dominated the news and social media for over a month now and is starting to impact many industries with the cancellation of events globally and even movies getting delayed releases.
It’s unfortunately also a period of time where social media has been at its worst with a lot of false information and fear-mongering spreading around the globe. Despite the fact that there is a higher chance of winning the lottery in South Africa at the moment than catching the Coronavirus, people continue to revel in the fear that this could be the virus that wipes many of us out, while others spread a whole host of false information about the virus around the internet.
It’s this false information that is now leading to many tech companies having to take a more aggressive stance on the type of information that is being shared. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced in a new post that the company will be taking a tough stance on this news to remove “false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations,” and will block people from running ads that “try to exploit the situation,” such as by falsely advertising a cure.
Similarly, Twitter is implementing similar measures where searching for COVID-19 will take you to a page featuring recent stories from public health organiSations and credible mainstream news sources. The search also accounts for common misspellings, the company said. The company also said that it would take a “zero-tolerance approach to platform manipulation and any other attempts to abuse our service at this critical juncture”. The company has also updated its hate speech policies to include discrimination based on disease, following several incidents of racism and prejudice made around the virus.
Google and Microsoft meanwhile are taking the approach of releasing certain tools (like Hangouts and Teams) away for free to help companies with remote work and be able to stream and communicate with each other more easily.
Pinterest is also taking the approach of limiting search results for anything related TO the virus to only display “internationally recognized health organiSations.”. Similarly YouTube, which is often a hotbed for wild conspiracy theories is placing a link to the World Health Organization page on the virus outbreak to the top of search results.
It’s unlikely that all these measures tech companies will be implementing will stop the spread of misinformation but it’s great to see them all uniting for the cause. And while that is not to discredit the seriousness of the coronavirus and the many thousands of people who have either died or been affected by IT in any way. Rather what is needed in times like these is for people to have access to the correct information to ensure their safety rather than wild conspiracy theories out there that make matters even worse.
Last Updated: March 6, 2020