Tech’s Big Fight Against Coronavirus misinformation
| March 13th 2020
With WHO confirming Coronavirus as a pandemic, we look at how tech giants are working to reduce Coronavirus misinformation, how businesses can help and how you can benefit from this.
People come to Search for all kinds of information–whether it is to see the latest news, see trending products in a specific niche or how to look after themselves and their loved ones especially during these trying times. Last week, as COVID-19 started spreading, the number of worldwide cases reached 125, 518 cases (reflecting the applied case definitions in the affected countries) prompting WHO to declare it as a pandemic.
Worldwide searches related to Coronavirus have seen a steady increase since Jan (Fig 1). Related queries and topics like Coronavirus symptoms, coronavirus news and Italy have also seen a spike (Fig 2).
With the numbers rising, tech and digital giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter are increasing their fight against misinformation and helping you to get relevant information as soon as possible.
Let’s start with Google, coronavirus related queries come with an SOS Alert in a red banner on mobile searches. The first result is top news stories followed by an image carousel denoting top news stories.
This is followed by Help and Information section, which includes information from key authoritative resources like the NHS, Gov.uk, WHO. Lastly, you have a heat map of the World showing the affected areas followed by the blue links.
This casual glance of the SERPs itself shows you how serious the search engine giant is about closing the net on misinformation. Earlier this week, Google via its official blog also announced that it is making it further easier for people in the UK to get accurate, detailed information from the National Health Service (NHS) by integrating results directly in SERPs.
For this partnership, the NHS has pre-formatted their content to make it far easier to find on the web and will be simultaneously available publicly to anyone via their website. As a start, these Knowledge Panels will be available for more than 250 health conditions. Google maintains that this is not intended to provide medical advice but give reliable information to users.
How Google Ads, YouTube, and Play Store is handling Coronavirus misinformation
YouTube, on the other hand, is also removing videos claiming to prevent the virus and home remedy videos very quickly.
Google is also removing any apps related to the virus, from its Play Store. For instance, an Iranian government app built to keep track of Coronavirus infections was removed from the Play Store without much warning.
Are they monitoring Google Ads? It seems like the company is ready to give up on its revenue through ads. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and Alphabet, has said in a recent memo that Google will block ads “capitalising” on the virus. It’s also pulled ads from YouTube videos that discuss Covid-19, whilst giving governments and NGOs free ad space on the video service.
Social media accountability
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has reiterated in a post that the platform will remove conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus that has been flagged by global health organisations. It will also label coronavirus misinformation with “fact check” labels to let users know that such content had been rated false.
Like Google, Facebook is providing the WHO free ads and blocking any ads that try to claim a product has a miracle cure for Covid-19. Twitter, is putting a warning label linking to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when users search “coronavirus.”
Given the popularity of Tik Tok especially among young Millenials and Gen Z, WHO has joined TikTok to boost its efforts to spread accurate information about the illness.
How can businesses help to stop Coronavirus misinformation?
While these measures taken by these giants are not extraordinary and could be attributed to public pressure campaigns from academics, activists, lawmakers, employees, or journalists especially in the last few years, it certainly is a step in the right direction. However, it is just a drop in the ocean and businesses should join hands to stop this spread of misinformation.
- If you are a local business, utilise and update your Google My Business listing.
- Update your description, hours and post with correct factual information if you are taking any unprecedented steps during this time.
- If you are a health website, then EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trust) is even more important now. Take a cue from Coronavirus SERPs example, and do not forget to cite authoritative websites when claiming anything.
- Better still, get a medical expert to fact-check everything and show that the content is thoroughly backed with medical/ scientific evidence.
- The same goes for lifestyle websites writing anything related to Coronavirus.
- If you are a travel website, create content about how to travel safely as opposed to guides and travel offers.
- Do not create funny memes or GIFs for social media share about Coronavirus.
- Do not share unsubstantiated news via mediums like Whatsapp both as an individual or business because these private mediums are usually a breeding ground for fake news.
These small acts during uncertain times will not only help you gain engagement and trust from users but will ensure your brand becomes a Brand in the public’s memory.
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