Novel coronavirus (24) Facebook, Amazon, Google and more met with WHO to figure out how to stop coronavirus misinformation

16 February, 2020

Extracts below from CNBC News and a comment from me below. Full text here:


- The World Health Organization hosted a meeting at Facebook with some of the largest tech companies to discuss how to tamp down on misinformation about the coronavirus.

- About a dozen tech companies attended, including Google, Amazon and YouTube.

- The group is planning to meet every few months.

WHO shared information with the group about its response to the coronavirus and attendees detailed their own ideas to address the outbreak. Each company was given a few minutes to present. They all agreed not to share each other’s internal efforts publicly because many of them are competitors...

The major topic of discussion was how the companies are working down to tamp down the spread of misinformation. WHO’s Andy Pattison, who flew to Silicon Valley for the event, said the “tone is changing,” as Big Tech is now starting to step up to combat fake news about the coronavirus. Pattison said he offered at the meeting to help the companies fact check information they or their users post, rather than relying on third parties...

As people continue to seek out information about the coronavirus, bad actors have taken advantage of the curiosity and see a money-making opportunity. Books have popped up on Amazon that stoke fear about the virus, and fake news stories are continuing to spread on Facebook and other social media platforms. Vitamin C also pops up via searches on the largest retailers, including Amazon, because of false reports that it can cure the coronavirus.

“Twitter and YouTube and other social media sites are still awash with misinformation,” said Pattison, who refers to the problem as an “infodemic.”..

Some of the priorities that tech companies have outlined in recent weeks include efforts to work with third-party fact checkers and public health organizations...

The companies agreed by the end of the day of meetings to work on collaborative tools, better content and a call center where people can ask questions or get advice.

“One of the reasons why there’s a lot of fake information is because *there’s a content gap*,” said Pattison... [my emphasis - NPW]

Several of the companies like Facebook and Amazon offered to share ad space or provide volunteers to help quell the spread of misinformation, said Pattison.


Comment (Neil PW): A silver lining to the current coronavirus outbreak is that WHO and big tech companies are now addressing health misinformation with increased urgency. This promises to have positive impacts not only on coronavirus misinformation, but on all forms of health misinformation. As WHO's Dr Tedros said a few days ago, "People must have access to accurate information to protect themselves and others". Please pass this email to your networks and invite others to join us: We need engagement by all stakeholderrs to accelerate progress towards the HIFA vision 'A world where every person will have access to the healthcare information they need to protect their own health and the health of others'.

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Citizens, Parents and Children (sponsorship opportunity)

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: