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Facebook to notify users who engage with COVID-19 misinformation

Facebook “in the coming weeks”, will start telling users if they liked, reacted or commented on “harmful misinformation” about COVID-19 that was removed by its moderators, the company said. Users who engaged with such content, will soon see anti-misinformation messages in their news feed, which will connect users with some of COVID-19 related myths busted by the World Health Organisation. In the US, it has also started showing fact-checked articles in its COVID-19 Information Centre.

40 million misinformation posts flagged in March: Facebook also revealed that in March, it displayed warnings on about 40 million posts on Facebook, based on around 4,000 articles by its independent fact-checking partners. It claimed that upon seeing those warnings, people did not go on to view the original content 95% of the time. However, as The Verge pointed out, there is little clarity about normal clickthrough rates on these platforms. Facebook has expanded its fact-checking coverage to “more than a dozen new countries and now work with over 60 fact-checking organisations that review content in more than 50 languages”, the company claimed.

On Facebook and Instagram, the company claimed to have directed more than 2 billion people to authoritative health resources via its COVID-19 Information Centre and educational pop-ups, with more than 350 million people clicking through to learn more.

Report calls misinformation on Facebook dangerous: Facebook’s updates to its misinformation policy come after a report by Avaaz, “an online activist network”, claimed that “misinformation about the coronavirus on Facebook could potentially cost lives and hinder attempts to fight this pandemic”. However, Facebook claimed to have removed “hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation” that could lead to “imminent physical harm”. For other misinformation, once it is rated false by fact-checkers, Facebook claimed to reduce its distribution, apply warning labels with more context and find duplicates.

Facebook ad review system unable to spot COVID-19 misinformation: Earlier this month, a test conducted by American not-for-profit consumer rights organisation Consumer Reports, found that Facebook approved ads that deliberately spread misinformation about COVID-19, including one that said “Coronavirus is a HOAX”.

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Facebook’s content moderation is suffering: In March, a day after Facebook announced that it would send home all its contract workers who moderate content and will rely on automated content removals, people around the world, including in India, reported that Facebook was marking legitimate news articles, including those about COVID-19, as spam. The company claimed that this was a case of correlation, not causation, that was caused by a bug in the spam-filtering system. Mark Zuckerberg later said that spam filtering is a completely different process from content moderation.

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