Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg pledges warning labels for millions of fake Covid-19 posts

A campaign group found 41 per cent of false coronavirus information on the platform remained online even after it was debunked

A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) words in this illustration; a campaign group found 40 per cent of false coronavirus information on the site remained online even after it was debunked Reuters
A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) words in this illustration; a campaign group found 40 per cent of false coronavirus information on the site remained online even after it was debunked Reuters

Facebook users will be told if content that appears on their feed contains fake Covid-19 news as the platform rolls out new warning labels to contain the spread of coronavirus misinformation.

Authorities around the world have struggled to contain the impact of the spread of coronavirus fake news. Social media platforms in particular have propagated a tide of made-up or distorted material.

As the misinformation proliferates online, governments particularly in Russia, China, Europe and the United States have found themselves on opposite sides of an information war.

Mr Zuckerberg said the warning labels would start to appear over the next three weeks. The decision follows the discovery by campaigners that 41 per cent of the false coronavirus information on the platform remained online even after it was debunked.

In a statement on Facebook, the social media giant’s founder outlined the steps that had already been taken to stamp out false information.

“We've taken down hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation related to Covid-19,” he said. Those posts included theories about drinking bleach to cure Covid-19 and claims that social distancing was ineffective against the disease.

“For other misinformation, once it is rated false by fact-checkers, we reduce its distribution, apply warning labels with more context and find duplicates,” Mr Zuckerberg added.

“In March, we displayed warnings on about 40 million posts related to Covid-19 based on 4,000 articles reviewed by independent fact-checkers.”

Facebook has said the warning labels discourage readers in 95 per cent of cases.

As they fight the coronavirus around the world, authorities have also found themselves fighting a tide of misinformation. In some cases bogus articles have claimed Covid-19 virus is a biological weapon created by China, the US or Britain. Vandalism has been carried out on 5G infrastructure following false news that the disease is spread by the new mobile network.

Avaaz found that information that had already been debunked by organisations working with Facebook was remaining on the site despite warnings. It also found that false posts about fake remedies or claims minority groups were less vulnerable to the coronavirus had been shared 1.7 million times in Facebook in six languages.

In response to the challenge posed by the coronavirus, Facebook has its expanded its fact-checking coverage to more than a dozen new countries. The platform is also with over 60 fact-checking organisations that review content in more than 50 languages.

The spread of misinformation has become a top security and military priority for governments. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Nato Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Todd Wolters said combating misinformation was a principal goal for the US and the trans-Atlantic alliance.

“Neutralising misinformation and delivering accurate and truthful facts is paramount,” he said.

The West in particular has identified Russia as spreading misinformation about Covid-19. Nato, Gen. Wolter said was keeping a particular eye on the Kremlin’s influence in this area.

“Russia has attempted to insert themselves in that information transaction and downplay the importance of one nation in Naton providing PPE equipment to another. And that in itself is a form of disinformation,” he said.

“I pay very close attention to Russian malign influence,” he added. “We have to make sure that we have all the facts.”

Updated: April 17, 2020 03:39 PM

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