(Natural News) Social media platform Facebook and its image-sharing social network Instagram will start reminding users to wear masks as part of its efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the highly-infectious and potentially-deadly disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, which originated late last year in China.
The two social media networks will do this by sending notifications, which include a link to information from the World Health Organization (WHO) to its users.
The alert, Facebook said, will appear at the top of the “News Feed” section.
The feature, which will be rolled out to users in both the United States and the United Kingdom, will also include information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for users who are based in the U.S., and the National Health Service (NHS) for those who are currently in the U.K.
This is the latest COVID-19-related service rolled out by the social media giant in a bid to help slow the spread of the disease.
Earlier this year, Facebook made a conscious effort to remove what it said were posts spreading “misleading misinformation” about the outbreak from its platforms, with the company warning users if they have liked, reacted to, or commented on potentially harmful COVID-19-related posts.
In addition, Facebook also started what it has since called a dedicated COVID-19 Information Center, of which an update will be rolled out to users within the month. The update, according to the company, will be a dedicated tab that will focus on purportedly “busting” common myths related to the coronavirus, such as the one about how drinking bleach will help one avoid contracting the coronavirus.
“This week we are launching a dedicated section of the Covid-19 Information Center called Facts about Covid-19,” the company said in a statement, adding that this is the latest step in the social network’s “ongoing work to fight misinformation about the pandemic.”
Critics, however, have raised concerns over its potential to censor and flag any information from alternative sources as examples of “misinformation,” given the company’s history of blatant censorship and de-platforming, as well as its failure to fully remove actual, harmful, content from its pages. (Related: Facebook smoking gun: Conservatives targeted for censorship because of their political beliefs… Facebook rigging elections.)
The social media firm — alongside other networks such as rival Twitter — had previously been criticized for its response to misinformation being disseminated on its various platforms, with U.K.-based think tank Center for Countering Digital Hate noting in a report that hundreds of posts spreading misinformation about COVID-19 are still online.
According to the think tank, while some 649 posts were reported to Facebook and Twitter, 90 percent remained visible online afterward without any warnings attached.
Facebook, however, said the sample noted by the think tank was “not representative,” and that the social network is actively and aggressively taking steps to remove potentially harmful misinformation from its platforms.
“During March and April, we placed warning labels on around 90 million pieces of content related to COVID-19 and these labels stopped people viewing the original content 95 percent of the time,” Facebook said.
Kang Xing-Jin, Facebook’s newly-appointed Head of Health, in a statement, meanwhile, assured users that the tech giant is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed during the coronavirus public health crisis and that the social network is also working to address the long-term impacts of the pandemic by helping support industries that are currently in need as well as by making it easier for people to find and offer help in their respective communities.
In a statement, Facebook noted that its Information Center was able to direct more than two billion people to health authorities for accurate guidance on the coronavirus and that more than 600 million people had already clicked through its prompts to learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have connected over two billion people to resources from health authorities through our Covid-19 Information Centre and pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram with over 600 million people clicking through to learn more,” the company stated, adding that people have raised over US 100 million for COVID-19-related fundraisers hosted on both Facebook and Instagram.
As of press time, 14,655,405 people have been confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide. Of this number, 609,198 have been confirmed to have died.