Facebook’s latest attempt to help combat the spread of potentially harmful COVID-19 misinformation involves a new notification screen that will provide more context about an article or other link, like when it was first shared and its source.
The goal, Facebook says, is to “help people understand the recency and source of the content before they share it” and to direct “people to our COVID-19 Information Center to ensure people have access to credible information about COVID-19 from global health authorities.” It builds on the platform’s existing recency notifications, which it launched in June to help cut down on the spread of older links that routinely resurface in ways that can misrepresent current events.
This new notification screen is part of an ongoing series of measures Facebook has been employing since March to try to prevent its platform from becoming a conduit for dangerous coronavirus-related conspiracy theories and other forms of misinformation. At the onset of the pandemic, the company began putting vetted coronavirus information from trusted health and medical authorities at the top of the News Feed, as well as the above-mentioned COVID-19 information hub.
Yet Facebook has had to take more active measures to combat the fast-moving spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories in the months since, including banning anti-mask groups and placing anti-misinformation messages into the News Feeds of users who may have engaged with fake coronavirus stories. In May, the “Plandemic” hoax video went viral, causing more headaches for Facebook’s moderation efforts. Just last month, another video from Breitbart News, a trusted Facebook News partner, containing false information about coronavirus cures and measures to combat its spread went viral again. Facebook later said it would investigate why the video remained live for so long.
As part of this new notification designed to help prevent the spread of old, out-of-date, and just outright false information, Facebook says it will be exempting certain information sources to ensure trusted and helpful links don’t get caught in the screen. “Along those lines, we want to ensure we don’t slow the spread of information from credible health authorities, so content posted by government health authorities and recognized global health organizations, like the World Health Organization, will not have this notification,” the company says.