With cases of the coronavirus continuing to appear in more countries around the world, global tech giants, including Facebook, Twitter and, Google have stepped up their efforts this week to guide their users to verified sources on the subject.
Facebook says it will start taking down bogus claims about purported “cures” and other unproven theories surrounding the coronavirus, as the deadly outbreak continues to spread globally, sparking a surge in online chatter and misinformation.
The company will “remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them,” according to a blog post published Thursday by Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook’s head of health.
Looking for the latest information about the novel #coronavirus?
— Twitter Singapore (@TwitterSG) January 29, 2020
Twitter said on Wednesday that it would begin prompting users who search for the coronavirus to first visit official channels of information about the illness. In the United States, for example, Twitter directs users to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, beneath a bold headline that reads: “Know the facts.”
The campaign is running in 15 locations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, and “will continue to expand as the need arises,” the company said in a blog post.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it will promote videos from credible sources when people search for clips about the virus. The company said it specifically points to content from trusted users, such as public health experts or news outlets, in search results or panels that suggest which videos to watch next.
Today we launched an SOS Alert w/ @WHO, to make resources about #coronavirus easily accessible. When people search for related info on @Google, they’ll find the alert atop results page w/ direct access to safety tips, info, resources & Twitter updates from WHO.
— Google Communications (@Google_Comms) January 30, 2020
Google announced their move on Thursday, January 30, after the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency.
The process of making important and reliable information more accessible in Google Search is powered by SOS Alerts, a system launched by the company in 2017 to help deal with a human-caused or natural crisis.
It means that now, if you go on Google to search for information related to the coronavirus, at the top of the page you’ll find the latest tweets from the WHO followed by links to the organization’s offering an overview of the current condition of the virus, advisory information, and Q&A material. Below that you’ll also find a drop-down list of useful safety tips, with a link to additional material from the WHO on how to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, a range of illnesses that includes the coronavirus.
With plenty of misinformation doing the rounds on social media and other online channels, Google’s effort to highlight links to reliable information should go some way to helping concerned folks stay on top of the fast-developing situation. Other useful sources that use official statistics linked to the coronavirus outbreak include an online tracker from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University in Maryland.
The dashboard shows a frequently updated count of the number of confirmed and suspected cases of the coronavirus globally, as well as the number of deaths and those who have recovered. At the time of writing, it lists 213 deaths from the coronavirus, all in mainland China where the outbreak began, and 9,776 confirmed cases, the vast majority of them in China. Six cases have so far been confirmed in the U.S.