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Facebook fights spread of misinformation about coronavirus online

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Posted at 11:16 AM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 11:43:51-05

MENLO PARK, Calif. – Facebook says it's working to help limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and will focus on providing helpful information to people.

Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook's head of health, said in a post that the social media platform's third-party fact-checkers are reviewing content and debunking false claims related to the coronavirus.

“When they rate information as false, we limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram and show people accurate information from these partners,” wrote Jin. “We also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.”

Facebook is also removing content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by global health organizations and local health authorities, particularly focusing on claims designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions.

“This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available,” said Jin. “We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can.”

As of Friday, China reported 43 more deaths, bringing the country’s death toll to 213. That’s the highest death toll in a 24-hour period, according to The New York Times. Chinese authorities reported nearly 2,000 new cases, bringing the worldwide total to around 9,800.

So far in the United States, six cases of the virus have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And on Thursday, officials announced the first person-to-person transmission in the U.S. That case involved a woman who recently returned to Chicago from Wuhan, the city where the outbreak is believed to have originated. The CDC says she transmitted the virus to her husband. Both are said to be in good condition.

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, after cases were discovered in more than a dozen countries. The declaration can help galvanize international funding to combat the spread of the virus.

Click here to learn more about the new coronavirus.