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Facebook intends to take the unprecedented step of directing any users who’ve been exposed to misinformation about the coronavirus—such as hoaxes and conspiracy theories about 5G—towards a Mythbusters-style page set up by the World Health Organization intended to debunk hoaxes.
The effort could backfire if improperly implemented, as it could sow distrust in anyone redirected towards the myth-busting page, who may see it as a form of “globalist” collusion between Facebook and the WHO. The appearance of collusion between one of the world’s largest tech companies and the world’s most important public health organization will only feed more conspiracy theories.
The United Nations body was recently exposed for propagating lies about the COVID-19 coronavirus put forth by its Chinese benefactors. It went so far as to regurgitate false claims that there was “no evidence” of human-to-human transmission of the virus, a claim flatly rejected by Taiwan’s CDC, whose queries into the matter went unanswered by the WHO. The organization also warned against the use of face masks in an exercise in shortsighted trickery. To conserve their availability to healthcare workers, the WHO warned against their use. It backfired—the WHO severely damaged the public’s trust in its efforts.
Facebook stated on Thursday that they will alert users who’ve been exposed to misinformation in a series of actions intended to curtail conspiracy theories surrounding the pandemic. Users who’ve interacted with posts flagged as “harmful” by the company in the form of likes, comments, or reactions will now be directed to a website debunking these myths.
“We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook,” wrote Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.
According to NBC News, a Facebook spokesperson said that the alert will not identify any specific posts containing misinformation, stating that the company is relying on research that shows repeated exposure to the coronavirus can reinforce misinformed beliefs.
Facebook may not want to explicitly warn people away from misinformation to prevent users whose heads are already misinformed by conspiracy theories from simply stacking more layers of misinformation onto what they already “know.”
The effort to steer users towards reputable sources of information on the coronavirus follows Facebook’s efforts to reduce fake news on its platform, which includes a non-partisan fact-checking service that involves both reputable left-wing and right-wing publications. The company also removes pages recommending dangerous “cures” for the coronavirus, including drinking alcohol and bleach.