Facebook will soon let you know if you saw or interacted with dangerous coronavirus misinformation on the site.
The new notice will be sent to users who have liked, reacted to, or commented on posts featuring harmful or false claims about COVID-19 after they have been removed by moderators. The alert, which will start appearing on Facebook in the coming weeks, will direct users to a site where the World Health Organization lists and debunks virus myths and rumors
The latest move is part of an unprecedented effort by Facebook, Google and Twitter that includes stricter rules, altered algorithms and thousands of fact checks to contain an outbreak of bad information online that’s spreading as quickly as the virus itself.
Challenges remain. Tech platforms have sent home human moderators who police the platforms, forcing them to rely on automated systems to take down harmful content. They are also up against people’s mistrust of authoritative sources for information, such as the WHO.
The company disclosed Thursday that it put more than 40 million warning labels in March over videos, posts or articles about the coronavirus that fact-checking organizations have determined are false or misleading. The number includes duplicate claims.
Facebook says those warning labels have stopped 95 percent of users from viewing the bad information.
But Baybars Orsek, the director of the International Fact-Checking Network, cautioned that the data Facebook provided should be reviewed by outside editors or experts, and called on the historically secretive company to release regular updates about the impact of its fact-checking initiative.
Orsek’s organization is a nonprofit that certifies news organizations as fact checkers, a requirement to produce fact-checking articles for Facebook. Facebook has recruited dozens of news organizations around the globe to fact check bad information on its site. The Associated Press is part of that program.
Facebook will also begin promoting the articles that debunk COVID-19 misinformation, of which there are thousands, on a new information center called “Get The Facts.” Putting trustworthy information in front of people can be just as useful, if not more, than simply debunking falsehoods.
Still, conspiracy theories, claims about unverified treatments, and misinformation about coronavirus vaccines continue to pop up on the site daily— sometimes circumventing the safeguards Facebook has implemented.
Facebook users, for example, viewed a false claim that the virus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide nearly 200,000 times, estimates a new study out today from Avaaz, a left-leaning advocacy group that tracks and researches online misinformation.
The group found more than 100 pieces of misinformation about the coronavirus on Facebook, viewed millions of times even after the claims had been marked as false or misleading by fact checkers. Other false claims were not labeled as misinformation, despite being declared by fact-checkers as false.
“Coronavirus misinformation content mutates and spreads faster than Facebook’s current system can track it,” Avaaz said in its report.