A joint statement from the world’s major tech companies on Monday night makes a plea to other companies to join them in helping to combat “fraud and misinformation” during the coronavirus pandemic. epidemic.
Among the companies making the request: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube (owned by Google) and LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft).
Google’s sister company, Verily, launched a website Monday to screen people in California’s Santa Clara and San Mateo counties who think they might have COVID-19 and point them to testing sites. President Donald Trump said in a press conference that it would serve as a nationwide screening site – which reportedly caught Google off-guard. The company reportedly said it would delay the launch of the website to “later this week.”
Microsoft also launched an online tracker for COVID-19 at Bing.com/covid on Monday. The site features a live map showing cases throughout the world, similar to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts,” the joint statement read. “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to The New York Times about censoring misinformation on its social platform. In the interview, Zuckerberg said that “(w)hen you’re dealing with a pandemic, a lot of the stuff we’re seeing just crossed the threshold … So it’s easier to set policies that are a little more black and white and take a much harder line.”
Twitter has also reportedly been actively taking down tweets that violate its policy against encouraging self-harm or spread misinformation. And YouTube warned its creators that video removals may increase during the COVID-19 pandemic – relying mostly on technology, not human moderation, to do the job of removing misinformation.
In true Reddit fashion, the platform is relying on its users to self-moderate what they believe to be misinformation by encouraging medical professionals to chime in and flag issues.
As of Monday, there are more than 180,000 coronavirus cases in the world, and the death toll had surpassed 7,100. (Courtesy USA Today)