Whilst governments have put the public in lockdown to help slow the spread of COVID-19, tech companies have launched their own programmes to stop another danger from spreading virally – misinformation.
With public anxiety riding high in the current climate, it’s been rich pickings for spoofers looking to circulate false information about the virus. As such, a host of spurious announcements and dodgy advice on preventative measures have started doing the rounds.
Now, to combat this type of viral spread, nearly all the web’s biggest players have announced a series of measures to stop it happening wherever possible.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and others have all pledged to remove fake information from their platforms. They’ve even agreed to work together to develop technology to more effectively identify and remove bogus Coronavirus claims.
Though collaborative working between such rivals may seem novel, there is a precedent. Many of the largest social media firms have worked together in the past, to develop tools that enable all of them to identify problematic content and stop it from being circulated before it starts to gain traction.
One of the latest to unveil such measures was Facebook, which has come under fire in recent years for allowing lies to be shared in political advertising – despite zealously policing content showing mothers breastfeeding, as it claimed such imagery was sexually explicit.
Now it seems the social network is getting on the right side of popular opinion early. It said in a statement: “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Despite the benefits that such measures will undoubtedly have, the companies were keen to stress that it would come with caveats. YouTube, for example, noted that certain videos wouldn’t make it through to the platform, whilst others would take longer than usual to be approved. Short delays, however, are surely a small price to pay for accurate information on such a key issue.