As it seeks to play its part in keeping people informed about the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook has announced that it's rolling out a new COVID-19 Information Center panel, which will be featured at the top of all user News Feeds for the foreseeable future.
As you can see here, the new information panel will feature the latest official news and updates on the outbreak, as well as links to helpful articles, videos and posts about social distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
"People can also follow the Coronavirus Information Center to receive updates from health authorities directly in their News Feed. And starting in the US, people will see features to help them connect with local groups and ask for or offer help within their community."
It's the latest in Facebook's range of efforts to provide assistance amid the evolving crisis - among other additions, Facebook has:
- Added informational prompts to relevant search queries, guiding users to accurate information sources
- Expanded access to local alerts to help keep local communities updates on important info
- Launched a new business resource hub to help those impacted by the pandemic
- Provided free ad credits for organizations looking to communicate critical info
- Implemented bans on ads seeking to capitalize on COVID-19 fears
- Provided new COVID-19 data tracking tools so anyone can keep tabs on the evolving conversation
- Allocated more than $100 million in funding to small businesses, fact-checkers and local newsrooms
- Provided staff with bonus payments to help maintain support for local businesses impacted by the changes
The Social Network is clearly stepping up to provide support where it can - Facebook's various pledges thus far cumulatively add up to more than $150 million in direct funding, and it's announcing more initiatives every day.
But these new information panels may actually prove to be the most significant addition yet. Facebook is accessed by 1.66 billion individuals every day, a number that, if anything, will likely increase amid the current push on social isolation. And importantly, a rising number of those users also get news content from the platform.
In many applications, this is problematic, as incendiary news reports tend to get more traction on the platform, fueling societal division, but in this instance, the reliance on Facebook for news makes it a key vehicle for the communication up to date, comprehensive, accurate information on the outbreak.
It's also a good situation for Facebook to showcase its value in a news delivery sense - and how its plans for a dedicated news tab have value, despite certain concerns.
In addition to this, Facebook is also making its Workplace Advanced platform available to government agencies and emergency services free of charge for 12 months.
"These organizations play a vital role during the coronavirus outbreak, whether it’s acting as first responders or coordinating public information. Workplace can help inform and connect their employees, allowing them to share critical information in real-time and enabling leadership to reach employees via live videos, posts and more."
Amid the chaos and disruption of the outbreak, Facebook is taking the initiative to showcase its value, and how it can contribute to uniting us, as opposed to the opposite. The various initiatives coming out of its Menlo Park HQ are significant and valuable, and will go a long way to helping as we all work to navigate this new normal. And ideally, come out better on the other side.
The new information center panels will initially be rolled out to users in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US, before expanding to more countries "in the coming days".