Industry stakeholders are working together to fight COVID-19 misinformation

As the World Health Organization (WHO) has described it, "the COVID-19 outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic' – an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it."

Social media platforms are aware of this challenge and are taking an active and tough stance against misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic. Online platform signatories of the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation confirmed to Commission Vice President Vĕra Jourová on 27 March 2020 that they are deleting false and harmful information "in large quantities".

Content removal is taking place on individual user's accounts and on posts which go against health authority recommendations, as well as ads that aim to generate panic or make money from the crisis. For example, Twitter has broadened the definition of harm in its community rules to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information. Facebook is removing misinformation that could "contribute to imminent physical harm". Claims that are rated false by a fact-checker but don't directly result in physical harm, like conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, are downranked on Facebook and Instagram to limit their distribution.

Moreover, as stated in a joint industry statement from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube, they are "elevating authoritative content" on the platforms and "sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world".

Joint industry statement from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube

Trustworthy information is being provided through COVID-19 dedicated pages and channels, banners and pop-ups displaying information and recommendations from governmental sources, or selected links at the top of search results pages. Some platforms are also promoting content and hashtags that strongly encourage people to stay at home during the current time.

For example, YouTube is inviting creators to record helpful, fun and informational videos and tag them with "#StayHome and ___ #WithMe" (e.g. #StayHome and cook #WithMe). A collection of playlists with a diverse range of activities can be found on YouTube Stay Home page. Instagram has added stickers to promote accurate information and launched a "Stay Home" sticker that allows users to see how others are practicing social distancing in a shared Instagram story.

In addition, ISFE (the Interactive Software Federation of Europe), which represents Europe's video game industry, has collated responses from its members to the COVID-19 situation, and has published a handy resource giving five tips for parents to manage screen time and responsible video gameplay.

We'll be bringing you a range of articles and insights on the opportunities and challenges of being online during COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks. Keep checking the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal and follow our social channels on Twitter (@Insafenetwork and @SafeInternetDay) and Facebook (@SaferInternet and @SaferInternetDay) for the latest news, information, advice and resources from the Insafe network and from other stakeholder organisations on staying safe online during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, for localised help and support in responding to some of the online challenges which COVID-19 might present, please do reach out to your national Safer Internet Centre (SIC) – find profile information and contact details on the BIK portal. In addition to a range of articles and resources in national languages, European Safer Internet Centres also provide helpline services allowing children and young people, and parents and carers to access personalised advice and support.

Related news

Slovenian Safer Internet Centre: COVID-19 resources

The Slovenian Safer Internet Centre has set up a page with tips and ideas (in Slovenian) on how to stay safe and what to do online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the page Safe at home without the boredom of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Below you can find an outline of the articles and resources published on the page organised by topic.

Greek Safer Internet Centre: COVID-19 resources

The Greek Safer Internet Centre has published a number of articles and resources (in Greek) on staying safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you can find them organised by topic.

COVID-19 – How to deal with scaremongering and disinformation

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Is Ibuprofen a potential risk for COVID-19 patients? Will grocery stores shut down? Will the internet be able to keep on functioning? Rumours linked to the newly discovered coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are spreading faster than the virus itself. The German Awareness Centre klicksafe offers some useful tips to find your way through the chaos.

COVID-19 – using tech in a positive way

We are hearing a lot about how technology can be misused and abused, and about how criminals are exploiting the current situation with an increase in scams and similar. It's important to remember, however, the many positive ways in which technology is connecting people, and providing hope, education and entertainment for the millions who are now forced to stay at home.

Staying safe online during the coronavirus pandemic

We are in unprecedented times. As schools close and people are confined to their homes due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are using the internet and online services more now than perhaps ever before. Being online is providing a lifeline for everyone in society from the young to the old, learners and workers, and the vulnerable, curious and those seeking an escape from boredom. This is probably, therefore, a good time to remind ourselves of a few key points to keep safe online.