Debunking #fakenews

Health organisations are working to combat coronavirus myths across various social media platforms.

The World Health Organization has joined TikTok to provide health advice as social media platforms clamp down on COVID-19 misinformation

Social media platforms are prioritising posts from the World Health Organization and other trustworthy sources amidst a strong need for accurate health information online.

WHO’s first video on TikTok explains methods for people to prevent contracting and spreading the COVID-19.

This includes frequently cleaning hands, covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, avoiding close contact with people who have fever or cough, and for those who have symptoms to see their health provider as soon as possible.

A second video explains when and how medical masks should be worn, reminding people that if they do not have symptoms, they do not need to wear a mask.

WHO’s account has now amassed over 180,000 followers and 1.3 million ‘likes’.

According to online reports, TikTok has 500 million active users worldwide as of 2019.

TikTok provided a statement to The Associated Press saying the platform does not permit misinformation that could cause harm to the community or larger public.

A search of the term “coronavirus” on TikTok brings up a box entitled “Prevent coronavirus: Learn the facts” – with links provided to a list of authoritative resources such as the NHS in the UK, the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention in the US, and various other government ministries.

Other trustworthy sources lead in the top COVID-19-related videos on TikTok including the Red Cross, the World Economic Forum and Unicef, in addition to the WHO.

Facebook has also put out a statement that it is working to “connect people to information from regional and local health organisations and limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus”.

Anyone who searches for information related to the virus on Facebook is shown educational pop-ups on top of search results connecting them to expert health organisations including the WHO, explains Facebook’s Head of Health, Kang-Xing Jin.

“In several countries we are directing people to their local ministry of health. Moreover, in countries where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission and deaths, we’ve shown additional messages to people toward the top of News Feed with more information.”

Facebook’s bid to combat misinformation

Facebook has also enacted a new policy to protect people from those trying to exploit the coronavirus emergency for financial gain.

“This means we are now prohibiting ads for products that refer to the coronavirus in ways intended to create a panic or imply that their products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting it,” says Mr Jin.

For example, ads for face masks that imply they are the only ones still available or claim that they are guaranteed to prevent the virus from spreading will not be allowed to run on our platforms.

He added: “Our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus.

“When they rate information as false, we limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram and show people accurate information from these partners. We also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.”

Twitter has followed suit, with a search for “coronavirus” providing a box that states “Know the facts”.

“To make sure you get the best information on the novel coronavirus, resources are available from the Australian Department of Health and the World Health Organization,” Twitter reads.

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