With the Coronavirus outbreak slowly spreading across the globe, people are understandably spooked and looking for more information. And given the propensity for people to get their news updates from Facebook, it's a fairly safe bet that many will be looking there - and with 2.5 billion active users, it's now likely the best platform to reach the maximum amount of people, and disseminate necessary information on the latest updates, relevant to each region.
Late last month, Facebook outlined its initial response to the outbreak, which included increased fact-checking and removal of misinformation, along with dedicated News Feed notifications for users in relevant regions, as guided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Now Facebook's expanding on that initial announcement.
In a post on his personal Facebook profile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a range of additional measures, including:
- Providing the WHO with as many free ads as it needs to maximize its coronavirus response. Zuckerberg says it's also providing "support and millions more in ad credits" to other organizations working to reach and raise awareness of the outbreak in impacted regions.
- Blocking people from running ads which seek to exploit the situation. Facebook detailed the action it's taking on this front last week.
- Providing anonymized Facebook data, including mobility data and population density maps, to help organizations to better understand how the virus is spreading.
In addition to this, and outside of Facebook itself, Zuckerberg also says that The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is providing resources and support to map the cell structure of COVID-19, with a view to developing a vaccine.
"Researchers are now using this to investigate potential ways to limit lung damage and address the symptoms of coronavirus. This is one of the fundamental ideas behind CZI - to do basic scientific research to create building blocks that health organizations can use to find cures for diseases."
Zuckerberg also says that Facebook is working on more ideas to assist, with further announcements to come.
As noted, Facebook's scale now makes it one of the key platforms for sharing information, and all Government organizations should be working in partnership with the platform in times of crisis to ensure optimal delivery of alert and awareness information. Whether you like it or not, or agree with its data-tracking processes, Facebook's reach is undeniable - a recent report showed that around 75% of the people across the world who are able to access Facebook's apps are doing so, an incredibly high penetration rate.
Given this, it's good to see Facebook taking on more responsibility to assist, and provide assistance where it can.