Facebook, Reddit, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube issue joint statement regarding misinformation’ about COVID-19

Companies Working Together on Coronavirus Response

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Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube have taken the unusual step of issuing a joint statement promising to disinfect their platforms of contagiously incorrect COVID-19 content.

It’s unclear what the joint effort will involve; not all of the participating companies initially said what they’re committing to doing or how this might effect existing moderation policies. But coronavirus-related misinformation has been running rampant on internet platforms since the outbreak began

Whatever its nature, the combined action is surely welcome. But it is also problematic because most of the platforms listed above have previously allowed all sorts of other toxic content to circulate freely.

“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts,” the statement says. “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also 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.”

Many of these companies have struggled with misinformation spreading on their respective platforms, and have tried to take a more active role in combatting the coronavirus crisis that has afflicted the world in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the platforms had begun honing their content moderation tools, both human and algorithm, to help blunt the spread of misinformation.

It’s unclear how these companies are going to work together, but the move comes at a time when they are experiencing great strain to keep misinformation off their platforms and promote reliable data and advice from credible news, intergovernmental and nonprofit organizations.

The statement comes on the heels of a busy couple of days for the platforms, but especially Google. At a press conference on Friday, President Trump had announced a Google initiative to help people figure out if they need a coronavirus test and where to find them. This caught the company off guard, as reports indicate that the company wasn’t planning this functionality.

Google took to Twitter later that evening to say, “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for COVID-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.” Verily is a sister company to Google, both under the Alphabet umbrella.

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