Facebook plans to take down posts spreading false claims and conspiracy theories about the deadly coronavirus in an unusually aggressive effort to tackle misinformation.
The social media giant said it will remove content with bogus claims about how to cure or prevent the virus — such as the idiotic idea that drinking bleach will get rid of it.
“We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can,” Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook’s head of health, wrote in a Thursday blog post.
Facebook will target claims flagged by health officials that could harm users who believe them, with a focus on claims that discourage people from getting treatment or “taking appropriate precautions,” Jin said.
The move came after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency. It has killed 213 people in China, spread to 15 other countries and prompted the US State Department to warn Americans not to travel to China, where the outbreak started.
Facebook’s announcement marked a bold step to combat misinformation by a company that has drawn fire for allowing political campaigns to run advertisements containing false claims.
Facebook said its outside fact-checkers will also keep working to debunk false information about the virus. The company restricts the spread of content that the fact-checkers determine to be false and sends notifications about their findings to people who have shared or try to share such posts, according to Jin.
The conspiracy group QAnon has reportedly spread a potentially deadly theory about the virus as it has sickened thousands of people and roiled global financial markets.
QAnon figures have told followers that they can defend themselves against the virus by guzzling “Miracle Mineral Solution,” or MMS, which has also been touted as a treatment for AIDS, cancer and autism, according to The Daily Beast. But it actually turns into a “dangerous bleach” when mixed that has caused “potentially life-threatening side effects,” the US Food and Drug Administration has said.