Facebook will start putting anti-misinformation messages in the News Feeds of people who have engaged with fake coronavirus stories. The company offered an update on its fight against harmful misinformation today, announcing the launch of a couple of new features for promoting accurate news. One of these is a box that will appear for people who liked, reacted to, or commented on a post that Facebook later removed, encouraging them to visit the World Health Organization’s site. Facebook is separately launching a “Get the Facts” section full of vetted news about the pandemic.
Today’s update follows a scathing report by nonprofit group Avaaz, which called the site an “epicenter of coronavirus misinformation” and cited numerous posts containing dangerous health advice and fake cures. The company pushed back on this accusation, saying it’s removed “hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation” in the past weeks. For milder content that doesn’t merit full removal, it cited statistics suggesting warning labels have a real effect: when people see the warning, they don’t click through to the original content 95 percent of the time. (We don’t know precisely how that compares to the normal clickthrough rate.)
Avaaz campaign director Fadi Quran told Politico that “Facebook should be proud of this step” to add new features, “but the step doesn’t reflect the full gamut of what we would like to see them do.”
Facebook has warned users that they’ve engaged with misinformation before, opening a portal for people to check if they’d liked or followed Russian propaganda pages. The pop-up strategy is more proactive, though. And the message that Facebook shared seems subtler and less judgmental. If anything, it seems designed to avoid even telling people they fell for a fake story. Instead, it urges them to “help friends and family avoid false information about COVID-19” by sharing a link to the World Health Organization’s website.