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With several new Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases reported in South Africa, Facebook has reinforced its commitment in helping to keep people safe and informed locally through local partnerships, and updates to its platform.

This includes:

  • Supporting health authorities and agencies – Facebook is partnering with organisations like health agencies and NGOs who are actively using its platforms to share accurate information about the situation, including on Pages. To help bolster and extend these efforts, the company is also providing ad credits to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health in South Africa to enable them to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook.
  • Providing educational pop-ups on top of search results
  • WhatsApp API with the National Department of Health – Local Facebook partner, Praekelt,  worked with the National Department of Health to roll out COVID-19 Connect, a WhatsApp-based helpline developed to deliver accurate health information. Visit: sacoronavirus.co.za/ or join the WhatsApp group on 0600 123 456 to receive the latest government updates.
  • Medical Supply Hoarding/Coronavirus Ad and Commerce Policy Changes – Our ongoing work to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus also applies to advertising. We launched a new policy prohibiting ads for products that refer to the coronavirus in ways intended to create a panic or imply that their products guarantee a cure or prevent people from contracting it, this includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available. We are also temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings that sell medical face masks
  • Limiting misinformation and harmful content – Our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work in reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus. In South Africa this includes our local partners AFP and Africa Check. Through our partnership with Africa Check the following local languages supported – Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele.
  • Supporting global health organisations in fundraising – As people come together on Facebook for this critical relief effort, we’re supporting the UNF/WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund Facebook Fundraiser with $10M in matching donations. We’re also working with the CDC Foundation to launch a Facebook Fundraiser in the coming weeks, and we will also match up to $10M.
  • Removing harmful health misinformation: Facebook will remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them. This includes claims designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions – for example, claims that drinking bleach cures the coronavirus. Facebook will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram and conduct proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as possible.
  • On Instagram – We’ve moved WHO and other authoritative sources to top of Search, so people can easily find the most accurate information. We’ll also no longer allow people to search for COVID-19 related AR effects, unless they are developed in partnership with a recognized health organization.
  • Facebook Groups – We are focused on connecting people with authoritative sources and reducing the spread of harmful misinformation, including in Groups. Anyone who searches for Coronavirus related groups is directed to credible information from health organizations. We already reduce the distribution of any groups that repeatedly share false news, and we are also starting to remove coronavirus related groups and pages from the recommendations we show people.
  • Creation of the Business Resource Hub – Supporting businesses being affected – directly or indirectly – by the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Hub features resources and recommendations to help small businesses stay connected to customers and keep their business on track. It also includes quick and easy access to credible and accurate information about COVID-19 to help small businesses and the communities they serve, stay informed.

“We’re committed to partnering with governments, technology companies, and civil society to respond to the immense challenges presented at this time here in South Africa and across the African continent. Ensuring people can access credible and accurate information on our platforms is vital, and we encourage all users to check the facts via official public health agencies before sharing messages that have been forwarded to them,” said Nunu Ntshingila Regional Director, Facebook Africa. “During these difficult times, we’re also seeing heartwarming stories of communities around the world dealing with quarantines and other disruption to their daily lives, using the internet to stay more connected and come together – for example, churches across the US and Italy holding services via Facebook Live, or local health agencies and ministries holding press conferences on the platform to update on the latest Coronavirus news.”