As U.S. health officials have issued warnings to prepare for the spread of coronavirus in American communities, Facebook announced it’s cracking down on ads that guarantee a cure, create a sense of urgency or otherwise attempt to cash-in on the outbreak.
The announcement comes as the social media giant’s ads policy has long courted controversy for spreading misinformation.
“In the weeks after the World Health Organization’s declared a public health emergency, Facebook is working to support their work in multiple ways, including taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention,” a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. “For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed.”
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday at a news conference that Americans should prepare for a “significant disruption” due to coronavirus.
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“Ultimately,” she said, “we expect we will see community spread in this country.”
As of Wednesday, there have been more than 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases globally and more than 2,700 deaths, mostly in China.
As the coronavirus spreads, so has a slew of online misinformation, conspiracy theories and fear about the mysterious illness, including false cures and prevention methods.
Other social media platforms including Google and Twitter have announced similar steps to quell the spread of false information about the disease and direct people to facts from medical authorities.
Google will put an alert on top of the search results pages with “safety tips, info, resources” as well as Twitter updates from the WHO, the company said in a tweet.
Similarly, Twitter said it would direct users posting or searching about the novel coronavirus to “credible, authoritative information first.” The company also said it would remove users who attempt coordinated efforts to spread disinformation about the health crisis.
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