Info-tech

Coronavirus: Here’s how tech giants are countering misinformation on COVID-19

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 06, 2020

Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo   -  REUTERS

 

As coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world claiming more than 3,200 lives and infecting around 95,000 people, tech giants including Apple, Google, and Facebook are cracking down on apps related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

American multi conglomerate Apple is not accepting any app which is not affiliated with recognized institutions like governments or hospitals, CNBC reported.

Four independent developers, who were developing apps to show country and continent wise statistics on coronavirus, were rejected by Apple. The developers mentioned that they took information from reliable sources like the World Health Organisation (WHO) to create the dashboard. However, Apple still denied it, added the CNBC report.

They further stated that an Apple employee told one of the developers that an official health organization or government must release anything related to COVID-19.

While another developer got a written response that “apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution,” as per the CNBC report.

According to a source cited in the CNBC report, Apple is taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of rumours around COVID-19. This seems to be working for Apple as search results show few apps about the outbreak and no obvious spam.

Google

Google Play has also banned apps related to coronavirus, which seemed unreliable. Google already has a policy in place against apps that bank on “natural disaster” or “atrocity” or appears to “profit from a tragic event with no discernible benefit to the victims.”

Search for keywords including “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” fetched no results on Google’s app store in the United States, an intentional move from Google to prevent misinformation.

Google Play also published a website called “Coronavirus: Stay informed” with suggested apps, including software from the CDC, Red Cross, and Twitter, CNBC reported.

Facebook

Facebook declared on Thursday that it would remove political ads posted on its service if they contain misinformation related to the coronavirus, a company spokesman told CNBC.

While Facebook faced heavy criticism over tackling fake information on its platform, the company ensured that it won’t entertain fake information on coronavirus, and will remove such dubious content from the site.

Twitter

Twitter, which has become a hotbed of rumours where one viral tweet claimed that antibacterial hand sanitizers are useless against viruses and can only kill bacteria. It garnered 100,000 retweets. Twitter deleted the tweet on Wednesday

Videos, images, and articles related to coronavirus were miscaptioned and misreported but widely spread on Twitter. Therefore, on Wednesday evening, the company announced policies, banning adverts that “opportunistically use the Covid-19 outbreak to target inappropriate ads,” reported the Guardian.

Amazon

Amazon stated that it had blocked over one million products claiming to cure the deadly virus. Third-party merchants were selling the products on its retail site. Amazon found them misleading and later removed them from the site.

According to Amazon spokesperson Cecilia Fan, Amazon has always required sellers to provide accurate information on product detail pages.

Last month, Amazon began directing customers who use keywords related to coronavirus, to the CDC website, with a message atop -- “Learn more about Coronavirus protective measures,” CNBC reported.

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Published on March 06, 2020
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