Facebook, Instagram Say They Directed 1 Billion-Plus People to Covid-19 Information

Over 100 million clicked through to learn more

The Facebook family of apps and their respective coronavirus features Facebook
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Facebook said it has directed more than 1 billion people to Covid-19 resources from health authorities, including the World Health Organization, and over 100 million of those people clicked through to learn more.

Vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg provided that update in a Newsroom post, along with an overview of the efforts that have been deployed across Facebook’s family of applications.

Educational pop-ups began appearing on Facebook and Instagram in January, providing information from the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and regional health authorities in areas where transmissions of Covid-19 were reported or where people were searching for information about the pandemic.

The social network debuted the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information Center last week, featuring it atop News Feed in several countries, providing users with real-time updates from national health authorities and global organizations. It will be available worldwide soon.

Facebook granted the WHO unlimited free ads and “other in-kind support” to share “timely, accurate information” about the coronavirus.

WhatsApp users can sign up to receive the WHO Health Alert, a daily report containing the latest numbers on Covid-19 cases, as well as tips on preventing its spread and answers to frequently asked questions.

The company is working directly with health ministries in India, Indonesia, Israel, Singapore, South Africa and the U.K. to provide similar updates that are specific to those nations.

Clegg said over 100 million WhatsApp messages were sent by those organizations to users over the past week.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp donated $1 million to the International Fact-Checking Network to expand the presence of fact-checking organizations on the app.

Messenger From Facebook is connecting government health organizations and United Nations health agencies with its developer partners, which will provide free services enabling those organizations to use the app to scale their responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Clegg addressed the topic of misinformation, saying that the company applied existing policies it had used regarding the measles in Samoa and rumors about the polio vaccine in Pakistan to the coronavirus pandemic.

Posts that make false claims about cures, treatments, availability of services or the location and severity of the outbreak are removed, and the social network relies on guidance from the WHO and other health authorities.

He wrote, “For example, we recently started removing claims that physical distancing doesn’t help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We’ve also banned ads and commerce listings that imply that a product guarantees a cure or prevents people from contracting Covid-19.”

Separate from the donation by WhatsApp mentioned above, Facebook also kicked off a $1 million grant program with the IFCN to support the global fact-checking community’s work related to Covid-19.

Clegg said that once a post is rated as false by one of Facebook’s 55 fact-checking partners, who work in more than 45 languages, that post’s distribution is reduced so that fewer people see it, and warning labels and notifications appear when people do see it or try to share it.

Accounts related to Covid-19 are removed from Instagram recommendations, and coronavirus-related content that does not originate from credible health organizations will not appear under its Explore tab.

Labels were added to WhatsApp and Messenger when people receive forwarded messages, or chain messages, so that they know what they are reading did not come from their immediate contacts. And there is now a limit on the number of times a message can be forwarded on WhatsApp, in order to reduce the spread of viral messages. Stricter limits for Messenger are being tested, as well.

Clegg concluded, “This is an evolving crisis, so as world health officials issue new guidance and warnings about Covid-19, we’ll continue working with them in order to ensure that people have access to accurate and authoritative information across all of our apps.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.