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Facebook tells users the source and date of coronavirus stories before they share them

The next time you go to share a coronavirus article on Facebook, you will see the date and source of the story before you post it.

The popular social media platform just rolled out a new COVID-19 notification feature in hopes of stemming the tide of misinformation about the virus.

John Hegeman, vice president of Feed and Stories at Facebook, wrote in a blog post: ‘We want to make sure people have the context they need to make informed decisions about what to share on Facebook, especially when it comes to COVID-19 content.’

The notification aims to help people understand the timeliness and reliability of the content before they share it and will also direct users to Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center.

Posts from recognized medical authorities like the World Health Organization will not be flagged with the notification, however.

In 2018, Facebook added a context button to provide additional information about articles in its News Feed. 

And last year, the firm rolled out a notification to flag articles that were more than 90 days old.

‘News publishers in particular have expressed concerns about older stories being shared on social media as current news, which can misconstrue the state of current events,’ Hegeman said.

Although a prompt appears when a user attempts to re-share an older story, they can still do so if the deem it relevant.

Facebook has faced criticism in the past for allowing coronavirus conspiracy theories, hoaxes and frauds to propagate online.

Earlier this month, it removed a video posted on President Donald Trump’s personal page in which he claimed children were ‘almost immune’ to COVID-19.

In the video, an interview Trump gave to Fox News, the president said ‘[Children] have much stronger immune systems than [adults].’

Facebook had fact-checked earlier posts by Trump, but this marked the first time one had been removed entirely. A spokesperson said the post violated the platform’s policies ‘around harmful COVID misinformation.’ 

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg maintains the site should not be the ‘arbiter of truth,’ the company began cracking down on misinformation about COVID-19 in January.

Posts are removed if they made false claims ‘about cures, treatments, the availability of essential services or the location and severity of the outbreak,’ the company stated.

The social media giant has removed posts claiming physical distancing does not help prevent the spread of the virus and banned ads that imply a product is guaranteed to prevent or cure COVID-19.

In March, when the pandemic was first declared, Facebook launched its COVID-19 Information Center, with real-time updates from national and global health authorities like WHO and the CDC.

The company also announced it was giving free ad space to WHO and other credible agencies to share vital information. 

Facebook has also ramped up efforts to censor other kinds of content. 

In June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform would remove posts that encourage violence or voter suppression and affix labels on posts that violate hate speech or other policies.

This week, the company announced a blanket ban on blackface and antisemitic conspiracy theories. 

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