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Facebook, Twitter And TikTok Tackle Aggressively The Spread Of Covid-19 Misinformation

source:slate.com

Joe Biden, president of Unites had said "they're killing people" when asked about Facebook's role in the Covid pandemic, a comment which made headlines around the world. These remarks were off-the-cuff comments to a reporter, who'd asked about his message to "platforms like Facebook".

Mr. Biden now says he was referring to a recent report about 12 people credited with spreading a vast amount of misinformation.

"Facebook isn't killing people, these 12 people are out there giving misinformation," he said. "Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It's killing people. My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow I'm saying 'Facebook is killing people', that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine. That's what I meant." he said.

Mr. Biden's initial quote last week was picked up by news around the world, leading to an unusually strong answer from Facebook.
"We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by facts," it said.
"The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period."

Facebook wrote a blog post that said "The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against Covid-19. President Biden's goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4," it wrote.

"Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed" it said.

Facebook has implemented various methods to try and encourage its users to follow safety guidelines, such as sharing regulations surrounding masks, in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The tech giant signed a new industry code in February, along with others such as Twitter and Tiktok. These companies hope to combat misinformation by safeguarding their users and introducing measures to reduce the visibility of fake news. Some examples of the way misinformation spread on social media can be seen here. Facebook has already taken action by introducing some of the following methods:

  1. Revealed annual reports concerning misinformation.
  2. Developed a Covid-19 information center available through Facebook accounts.
  3. The center promotes wearing masks and social distancing, and shares the latest news, this gives users a reliable source of information.
  4. Formed a partnership with Boston Children's Hospital to access local vaccine sites and appointments.
  5. 5 million users have added stickers onto their photos to show support towards the Covid-19 vaccine, which would have a social impact on friends uncertain about it.
  6. Facebook presents factually checked information from local and global health agencies.
  7. Launched a fact-checking program in 2016.
  8. Users are made aware of whether the posts they're interacting with are fact-checked or not.
  9. Accounts can receive reduced exposure on news feeds if continuously spreading misinformation.
  10. Notifications alert users if anything they have interacted with is later found to be inaccurate or untrue.

An example notification from Facebook alerting the user to a more reliable source of information.


Facebook is not alone in its attempts, other social media sites also introduced measures:

  • Tiktok has several relief funds available for their users, e.g. "TikTok Health Heroes Relief Fund" ($150 million) "TikTok Community Relief Fund" ($40 million), "TikTok Creative Learning Fund" ($50 million) and "Helping SMBs restart and rebuild"($100 million in ad credits).
  • Tiktok also partnered with organisations to share trusted information, such as American Red Cross, Unicef, and The World Economic Forum".
  • They introduced a Covid-19 information hub where they share common questions about Covid-19 from the World Health Organisation and CDC.
  • Twitter, similarly has partnered with organisations to relay accurate information through their platform with a "Covid-19" tab. Twitter also encourages "#KnowThe Facts" to tackle misinformation. Users will receive warning labels and messages if something is potentially misleading about Covid-19.
  • They broadened their guidance concerning misinformation, as well as restricting advertisements that may share inappropriate or untrue information.
  • Finally, they also donated resources to help those suffering from substance abuse during Covid-19.

Facebook also emphasised its efforts towards reducing the impact of Covid-19 has gone beyond its social media site. Since January 2021, they have donated more than $30 million in advertising to governments and various other organisations to help reach people with reliable Covid-19 information. The result was 10 billion ad campaigns globally and information posts that can direct users to other trusted sources concerning Covid-19.

It is important to remember that these are in advertising credits via Facebook. Although they are cash value, it is disappointing that there hasn't been more done within the real world, such as sending medical aid and funding to health workers and organisations.

Despite these efforts, there has been backlash from people who feel their rights have been violated. The Children's Health Defense recently attempted to sue Facebook for infringing on their First Amendment rights, after it was suggested they had broken community rules and spread misinformation. The case was dismissed as it was found to be unsupported by any facts. 
Facebook seems to also statically ignore non-English posts during these Covid-19 efforts. An independent study by Avaaz in April 2021 found that 56% of non-English posts written in European languages were not acted upon despite being factually incorrect. This is compared to 26% of English-written posts. They were also one week slower when acting upon misinformation in non-English languages.


Statistics by Avaaz in the April 2021 independent study of which European languages were neglected during Facebook's fact-check process.


Although Facebook has taken steps to ensure that their social network is safe, there seems much more they’re able to do. Much funding is through advertising credits, or grants for businesses (e.g. Facebook Small Business Grant programme) but there is plenty that could be spared towards medical organisations or crisis charities currently dealing with the consequences of Covid-19. Although Facebook has improved its platform, most of its efforts revolve around changing its social media site rather than benefiting the vulnerable and needy during the pandemic.

Only time will show us if enough was done to save people.


Becky Robinson - Writer/Editor
A Creative Writing graduate with a love of modern classical literature. Currently sharpening her editorial skills and working to help others improving their writing abilities.


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Facebook, Twitter And TikTok Tackle Aggressively The Spread Of Covid-19 Misinformation Reviewed by Rebecca Robinson on Friday, July 23, 2021 Rating: 5

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