Facebook to place new coronavirus info center on the top of News Feed

The goal is to put information from authoritative sources in front of Facebook users, the company said.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Facebook held a media briefing with reporters on Wednesday to give an update on the company's COVID-19 response efforts.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company has built, in collaboration with its health partners, a coronavirus information center that will be placed at the top of everyone's Facebook News Feed in the next 24 hours. The goal is to put information from authoritative sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in front of Facebook users, and pushing out the messages that these organizations feel are most important. 

"Today I want to share new steps that we are taking to respond to the coronavirus outbreak," Zuckerberg said. "It is something we have been tracking closely for a while across the world. The top focus for us is making sure people can get access to good, authoritative information from credible sources, pushing authoritative information across the network more broadly and making sure misinformation does not spread."

Zuckerberg cited a number of COVID-19 related hoaxes circulating Facebook, including one that encourages people who are sick to not get treated, and another one telling people to drink bleach if they think they've been infected with the virus. 

"Just like we don't let people yell 'fire!' in a crowded room, it's the same about not letting people spread misinformation in a time like this," Zuckerberg added. "While the response there hasn't been perfect, I think we have executed on this quite well so far and I am proud of that response." 

Zuckerberg also said that Facebook will make Workplace, its version of Facebook for organizations and businesses, free to governments and emergency services organizations for next 12 months.

With its own workforce, Zuckerberg said Facebook employees began working from home in January, and now mandates that all of its employees work from home save for a few roles in critical areas. Zuckerberg confirmed that he was working from home himself while on today's call. Facebook's content moderators, who are largely employed via contract partners and are unable to work from home, will continue to get paid, he said.

As for how Facebook plans to deal with a potential backlog of content moderation, Zuckerberg said they are still working out a plan. For now they are in the process of moving the most sensitive types of content, such as flagged posts about suicide and child exploitation, over to full-time employees.

"I am personally quite worried that the isolation from people working from home could lead to more mental health issues and I want to make sure we are ahead of that," Zuckerberg said. "So we have shifted that work so it's more of a full-time workforce." 

Yesterday Facebook dealt with a surge of complaints from users who were notified that their posts related to the novel coronavirus were in violation of community standards and removed. The mass removal of COVID-19 posts led a flurry of content censorship accusations against the social media company.

Guy Rosen, Facebook's VP of Integrity, confirmed the problem and said it was due to a bug in an anti-spam rule, adding that the issue was "unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce."

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