Three of Silicon Valley’s biggest players in social media have united to combat coronavirus rumours, lies and misinformation.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all joined the coordinated response in the wake of a stark warning from the NHS that scaremongering presented a risk to life as the number of cases in the UK rose to 373, with six deaths.
The health service was moved to call out the risks associated with fake news after a Twitter account masquerading as the official page of Andover Hospital sparked alarm after sharing fabricated information about a supposed ‘influx’ of virus cases.
In response, Twitter has closed the page down and issued blue verification ticks to over 800 verified NHS accounts to provide peace of mind to members while also elevating official NHS guidance to the front of its search results. The service will also play host to break-out boxes bearing official advice and will block all adverts deemed to ‘capitalise’ on the health emergency.
Concerns have been mounting among medics at the appearance of trolls promoting wild claims citing bleach or saltwater as virus cures, as well as conspiracy theories claiming the virus is a bioweapon. To close down such chatter the government has launched its own ‘counter-disinformation unit’ to liaise with internet giants.
Commenting on the latest measures Facebook’s Steve Hatch said: “We’re removing false claims and conspiracy theories which have been flagged by leading health organisations and that could cause harm to people who believe them. We’re in close contact with the NHS about further initiatives.”
Such claims have sparked a wave of counteraction among social providers which have seen Facebook move aggressively against purveyors of fake news by blocking ads for surgical face masks and blocking fake news from Singapore users.