Facebook to warn users who 'liked' coronavirus hoaxes

Have you liked or commented on a Facebook post about the COVID-19 pandemic that turned out to be a hoax?

The social media company said Thursday it is now going to let users know if they liked, reacted or commented on posts with harmful misinformation about the virus that moderators later removed. Facebook says it will also direct people who engaged with those posts to information about virus myths debunked by the World Health Organization.

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Facebook says people will start seeing these warning messages in the coming weeks. The company said it is also starting a new “Get the Facts” feature on the COVID-19 information center of its news feed that will include fact-checked articles from partner organizations that debunk misinformation about the coronavirus.

Many of Silicon Valley’s popular online platforms, including Facebook, have taken unprecedented steps to curb the wave of dangerous misinformation that has hit the internet with the coronavirus’ spread.

Facebook, for example, has banned ads promising coronavirus treatments or cures. The tech giant is using new algorithms and is trying to put facts about the virus from health officials and resources to state or local health departments in front of its users with an informational page.

But that hasn’t stopped all bad information from spreading quickly.


Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone screen photographed on coronavirus COVID-19 illustration graphic background on March 25, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus and the vaccines being developed to prevent it still pop up daily. Posts or videos that promote unverified treatments and cures have raked in thousands of a views.

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.

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The group found more than 100 pieces of misinformation about the coronavirus on Facebook, which was 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. Facebook partners with news organizations around the world to provide fact checks of misleading content on its site. The Associated Press is part of the fact-checking program.

“Coronavirus misinformation content mutates and spreads faster than Facebook’s current system can track it,” Avaaz said in its report.