By Anna Williams, Account Manager
In some ways, it’s never been more important to stay informed – our wellbeing counts on it.
However, as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold and spread across the world, so do many fake news stories.
Throughout history, we’ve seen time and time again that as confusion and speculation spreads, inevitably so does misinformation – and there’s a lot of confusion in the world right now. But are the major players in social media doing enough to tackle it?
The impact of fake news
The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it perfectly when he said: “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.”
With the help of the internet – and more specifically social media – what were once just whispers and rumours are now being presented as facts.
From reports that the government is monitoring how often we leave the house under lockdown, to curing coronavirus with water and protecting yourself by eating garlic – there’s a never-ending list of misleading information. You only need to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed and you’ll come across a handful of fake posts, like these:
Current measures being put into place
With misinformation flooding our feeds, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for all of us to identify what information is true and for businesses it has become even more difficult to protect their brands reputation. Incorrect, dangerous and irresponsible information is spreading faster than ever before and is having destructive impacts across our society.
The government has announced a new “counter-disinformation unit” headed up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and will work alongside social brands to clamp down on false information on the virus.
Additional to this, the NHS announced a partnership with Google, Twitter and Instagram to help stop the spread of false information. The new “package of measures” includes targeted promotional ads that include correct NHS travel and health advice. These are targeted to people using search terms like “coronavirus treatments” and “coronavirus symptoms”.
The social giants are also working on giving verification (a blue tick) to more 800 NHS accounts, and we’ve already seen lots of official pop-ups on COVID-19 related advice as we’re scrolling through our social channels. For example, Tik Tok now has a consistent COVID-19 banner at the bottom of its platform which sends users to a host of influential and topical accounts sharing accurate advice and guidance.
Instant messaging giant, WhatsApp has also taken an incredibly innovative approach to tackling the problem and is now working with the government on a new automated chatbot which provides factual information to users, reducing the strain on the NHS. It has also pledged to limit the amount of times a message can be forwarded and is now using machine learning to ban accounts that are sending messages in mass.
From these new measures being put in place, it’s clear that social media is the backbone to the spread of so much false information. But with word-of-mouth being such a huge factor in behaviour change, paired with the power to be influenced by the people around us, what will the UK government do next to halt the spread of fake information, and what can businesses do to shield their own brand?