As countries start to roll out coronavirus vaccines in a bid to end the pandemic, the rampant spread of fake news and conspiracies on social media is causing a lot of trouble for both the government authorities and the general public.
With many questioning the vaccines’ effectiveness, Twitter and Facebook — two of the most popular online platforms — have made efforts to come up with ways of addressing misinformation.
When the coronavirus spread and became a global concern, netizens have turned to Twitter for real-time updates and discussions. As the global community faces the pandemic together, the American microblogging service is helping people find reliable information, connect with others, and follow what’s happening instantly.
As a matter of fact, Twitter saw #COVID19 as the top hashtag for 2020, tweeted nearly 400 million times. But this also meant that a big part of this number had been used to spread misleading information about the pandemic.
In December, Twitter shared updates on protecting the public conversation surrounding the pandemic. The platform also applied labels to tweets that may contain wrong information about COVID-19 vaccines.
Since introducing their COVID-19 guidance, over 8,400 tweets have been pulled out and 11.5 million accounts worldwide challenged. They have also introduced a strike system that determines when further enforcement action is necessary.
“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter, particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules”, reads a statement from the microblogging site.
Aside from Twitter, Facebook — which has also been mired in fake news even before COVID-19 — also recently announced they are taking on a global campaign to help bring people a step closer to getting COVID-19 vaccines.
Posted on his Facebook account earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said they’re continuing to expand their efforts to address COVID-19 vaccine misinformation by adding labels to Facebook and Instagram posts that discuss the vaccines.
“First, we're launching a tool that shows you when and where you can get vaccinated, and gives you a link to make an appointment.” The said tool will be in the COVID Information Center and will be in each user’s newsfeed.
The second action is to bring the COVID Information Center to Instagram, which will be shown to users prominently. The third is to make use of the cross-platform messaging service Mark Zuckerberg also runs, they’re working with health authorities and governments to expand WhatsApp chatbots to help people register for vaccines.
According to data from WhatsApp, more than 3 billion messages related to the global pandemic have been sent from governments, nonprofits, and international organizations to citizens through official WhatsApp chatbots, giving substantial precedent for Zuckerberg’s update.
In an interview with Reuters, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said that the company had taken viral false claims “very seriously” but said there was “a huge gray area of people who have concerns...some of which some people would call misinformation and some of which other people would call doubt.”
“The best thing to do in that huge gray area is just to show up with authoritative information in a helpful way, be a part of the conversation and do it with health experts,” he added.
Since expanding its list of banned false claims about the coronavirus and vaccines in February, Facebook has removed an additional 2 million pieces of content from both platforms, Facebook and Instagram.
Additionally, Facebook said it also implemented temporary measures including reducing the reach of content from users who repeatedly share content marked false by fact-checkers.
As the pandemic evolves and the world continues to change, the social media giant is all about making sure people are safe, connected, and have access to credible information.
COVID-19 campaigns on Facebook
There are over 72 million social media users in Vietnam and most of them rely on their Facebook newsfeed to get COVID-19 updates. With this large number of people scrolling through the online platform for hours, the spread of fake news has easily become a serious concern. To solve this, the social networking platform has limited the misinformation and harmful content and removed content flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities.
Facebook also launched Search Inform Module and Messages on the newsfeed that will direct Vietnamese users to the Ministry of Health’s official website on COVID-19, making sure the announcements from the authorities can be accessed by the general public.
According to the information provided by Facebook, Viet Nam Government Portal received advertising credits to run campaigns focused on COVID-19.
“In Vietnam, Facebook has supported the Vietnamese government since February last year in its effort to promote information about the government’s response to COVID-19 through the Vietnam Government Portal (VGP)’s Facebook page.”
Since the VGP page started to run ads on COVID-19 with ad credits, the number of people following the page has increased by nearly 2.5 times, Facebook revealed. Within three months, key messages from the Prime Minister and the Vietnamese government have reached more than 250 million users and attracted over 6.5 million engagements.
The same ad credit was provided for the Ministry of Health Facebook page Sức khỏe Việt Nam in the second half of 2020. Within five months, the number of people following the page increased by seven times. This year, Facebook continues to support MoH to relay vaccine-related content.
As Vietnam continues its COVID-19 vaccination program across different localities, Facebook recently launched the COVID-19 Information Center, where Vietnamese can gain access to the latest and only factual information on the coronavirus situation in the country, as well as links to relevant organizations.
The online information center is also available in 71 different languages, to cater to expatriates in Vietnam.