Tech Giants Tackle COVID-19 Fake News

John Lister's picture

Leading tech companies have agreed a joint program to week out false information about the COVID-19 pandemic. It could have a knock-on effect on the rest of their services.

The program is announced in a joint statement from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube. It says they will take steps "to make sure everyone has access to accurate information, stop misinformation and harmful content, and support global health experts, local governments, businesses and communities." (Source:

It's part of a four part program of measures from Facebook. The first part is a promise to promote and highlight credible and authoritative sources. That includes a grant of $1 million to the International Fact-Checking Network and a further $1 million to local news organizations in the United States and Canada.

Misleading Ads Banned

Secondly there will be efforts on "limiting misinformation and harmful content." This will also include a ban on ads for medical face masks and a crackdown on ads that make misleading claims, for example falsely offering protection from or treatment of the virus.

The third part is a series of measures to boost relief efforts including $20 million in donation matching. Facebook will also share data and tools with global health organizations and offer them free advertising.

Finally, the Facebook is offering a total of $100 million towards small businesses affected by COVID-19. It's also asked staff to work from home where possible and promised to boost health and safety measures for those who are still needed in offices.

Content Reviews May Slow

Exactly what the tech companies will do jointly to crack down on misinformation hasn't been publicly detailed yet. One suggestion is using a common technology to mark bogus information posted on one platform so that it can be quickly removed or even blocked before posting on other platforms.

There is one immediate downside: Google says its increased focus on tackling misinformation may slow down some of its other support operations. Meanwhile, YouTube says reviews and uploads of new videos could take longer than usual. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you trust the companies to weed out misinformation? Is the work undermined by algorithms that incentivise "shareable" content that may be eye-catching but false? Do you think Internet users are savvy enough to credibly assess online sources on this subject?

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kitekrazy's picture

You'd have to shut down NY Times. They seem to spread the most doom and gloom.

pctyson's picture

This is a link to the CDC site for the 2017-2018 flu season. It is not fake news. Take note of the 61000 deaths from the flu in that annual season most of which were also elderly (51000).

David's picture

This policy is necessary to counter all the "it's just the flu" and other harmful and demonstrably wrong ads, posts, tweets, whatevers.

But it needs to be expanded to political ads too.