Facebook Uses Coronavirus To Clean Up Its Reputation, But It’s Still Evil

Facebook is giving the WHO free ad space and policing its platform for coronavirus misinformation. Here's why it won't matter.
Posted in: MarketsOp-ed
March 8, 2020 7:00 PM UTC
  • Facebook is giving the WHO free coronavirus ad space on its network.
  • Facebook is vowing to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation and to prevent fraudsters from hawking fake cures.
  • The social media giant has a poor track record of policing its platform. The coronavirus is no different.

In a bid to be a good corporate citizen, Facebook is giving the World’s Health Organization (WHO) free coronavirus ad space. It also vows to remove coronavirus-related conspiracy theories from its news feed.

In a post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook is working with the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF to release accurate information during the coronavirus outbreak.

Facebook is giving the WHO as many free ads as needed for its coronavirus response and is extending ad credits to other organizations. The social media giant said its putting plans in place to stop hoaxes and misinformation from spreading on Facebook.

Zuckerberg wrote:

It’s important that everyone has a place to share their experiences and talk about the outbreak, but as our community standards make clear, it’s not okay to share something that puts people in danger. So we’re removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations. We’re also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation — for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease.

Facebook’s Actions Ring Hollow

Zuckerberg’s pledge to protect the world from coronavirus misinformation rings hollow given his platform’s track record. Facebook refuses to block political ads on its platform, even ones filled with false claims. Rival Twitter is taking a different approach by banning all political advertisements on its platform. On top of that, Facebook has been accused of bias, allowing some fake news and ads to stay up while removing others.

Twitter is taking a different approach to political ads. | Source: Twitter

In Facebook’s coronavirus crusade, will it ban President Donald Trump? After all, the president is already creating uncertainty, claiming the WHO’s 3.4% death rate for the coronavirus is “false.” If the president brings his theories to Facebook will the social media giant react?

If history is any evidence, Facebook’s efforts to police its network will have little impact. Despite its attempts in the past, Facebook has failed to quell misinformation.

Consider Facebook’s approach to vaccines. Medical professionals blame social media for a rise in unvaccinated children as false claims flow freely. But with 2.4 billion active monthly users, it’s impossible for Facebook to keep all the false information out.

Facebook Rumors Can be Deadly Amid Coronavirus

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the rumors and misinformation are spreading faster than the virus itself. Facebook is ground zero for that. The Washington Post reported bots on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are spreading conspiracy theories. Marketers are using Facebook’s WhatsApp to hawk fake cures.

Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used platforms and misinformation hubs. | Source: Pew Research

If people believe it’s a hoax because of a Facebook post, they’ll put themselves and others at risk. The more infected people there are, the worse the virus will be. It could cause a run on certain supplies to cure or prevent coronavirus, no matter if they work.

The false information has already duped people into action. 5W Public Relations recently polled American beer drinkers and found 38% wouldn’t buy Corona beer because of the coronavirus. That was before cases started to show up in the U.S.

A few free ads and a vow from Zuckerberg isn’t going to stop the flow of misinformation on Facebook as the coronavirus outbreak rages on.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.

Sam Bourgi edited this article for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us.

Last modified: June 13, 2020 12:25 AM UTC

Show comments
Donna Fuscaldo @donnabail

Hailing out of the U.S., Donna is a veteran business journalist covering investing, cryptocurrency and financial technology for decades. From booms to busts Donna has seen it all and covered most of it, affording her a unique perspective on the financial markets.