Managing Covid-19

Good practice implemented by platforms in tackling Coronavirus fake news

Published on 17th Mar 2020

Give priority to official information

First of all, it is important to get information from the official releases of governments or world organizations, such as websites or press releases (such as the French government or the World Health Organization websites). Since the beginning of the crisis, the Director of World Health Organization has held press conferences almost every day. But other media can also be reliable if they highlight their sources and those sources are trustworthy.

Following a meeting on 28 February 2020 with the French government spokesperson, the Secretary of State for digital affairs and all the main stakeholders in the information sector, the latter undertook to highlight their sources of information on their respective services, in particular the dedicated page on the French government's website.

For example, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook systematically display a link to the French government's website when the user launches a search related to the coronavirus. Tiktok, the popular video-sharing application, prioritises showing users videos from the World Health Organization, the Red Cross, and the World Economic Forum.

Some organisations also decrypt the fake news as they are published and explain them on their website, as for a Q&A content. These include, the World Health Organization website with an article “Myth busters”, LCI website (a French news channel) or the French ministry of health Twitter account.

Media can decrease the visibility of content

Upstream of this crisis, social networks had been already adapting their systems to fight fake news.

In the event that a content represent a danger for the user, social networks are making every effort to remove the content: misleading advertisements for so-called “miracle cures” are specifically targeted. Facebook has decided to prohibit advertisements that refer to the coronavirus in such a way as to create panic or imply that the products concerned are a cure or prevent contamination and block or restrict hashtags on Instagram that spread coronavirus misinformation.

For content that does not endanger users, but which nevertheless remains erroneous, Facebook limits their visibility. This fake news appears as low as possible on a user's news feed. Facebook also offers the user a "fact checking" function that demonstrate that the information is partially false or inaccurate.

Publishing content related to coronavirus

Before the user publish a content that contains information that has been determined to be untrue, some social networks try to dissuade the user to continue the publication. For instance, Facebook will display “warning” message on the user’s screen and a confirmation via a click is necessary before any publication. If any information published later turns out to be untrue Facebook informs the user via a notification and offers a “fact checking” article on the subject. Tiktok also operates this way.

The gravity of the current crisis, and the importance of people receiving accurate information, has brought into sharp focus the scale of the challenge presented by fake news. But it also highlights some of the notable progress made by platforms in rising to this challenge.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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