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Facebook, Google, Reddit and others say they are jointly combating fraud and misinformation about COVID-19

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, in a joint statement yesterday, said they are jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the COVID-19 coronavirus and “elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world”.

“We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.” the statement reads.

It’s unclear what the joint effort will involve; as the statement is precise, and does not give away any specifics. The US government last week sought help from Amazon, Google, Cisco, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and Twitter in the fight against the coronavirus, reported the Washington Post. The government was hoping that the companies will be able to to track the outbreak and disseminate accurate information. White House officials urged the companies to halt the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 coronavirus on social media websites, urging them to replace it with accurate information before the posts go viral.

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Apple yesterday announced that it is evaluating COVID-19 coronavirus-related apps critically to ensure “ensure data sources are reputable” and only apps from recognised entities including government organisations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions will be allowed on the App Store. Entertainment and gaming apps themed around COVID-19 will not be allowed.

Apart from Apple, other big tech companies have adopted measures to curb spread of misinformation on COVID-19 coronavirus.

Amazon removed over 1 million listings for items that claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Amazon is also being investigated by Italy’s anti-trust watchdog for an allegedly excessive rise in the price of products such as hand sanitiser during the coronavirus crisis.

Facebook banned ads selling medical face masks to avoid the exploitation of panic around COVID-19. This includes ads on Instagram, which Facebook owns, and commerce listings on Marketplace. This is also an attempt to prevent the inflation of prices of face masks and overcome their short supply, as Instagram head Adam Mosseri’s tweet suggested. Twitter enacted a similar policy on March 4.

Instagram said it shows only resources from WHO, Centre for Disease Control, and local health authorities, when someone taps the hashtag related to COVID-19.

YouTube yesterday warned creators that there will be more video removals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since there is reduced staff in-office, the company said the company will rely on automated moderation “more than it usually does”, and that videos that may not violate YouTube policies may also be removed temporarily.

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