Tech Company Claims

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, social media companies have profited from the increased time we are spending on social media, looking for information and seeking to connect. However, their services are also being used by those seeking to misinform the public.

 

On this page, we have collated statements made my social media companies on their approach to Coronavirus misinformation, to help us judge their actions against their claims and hold them to account. We hope this will be a useful resource to researchers, journalists and activists.

Facebook

“We remove COVID-19 related misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm… For example, we recently started removing claims that physical distancing doesn’t help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We’ve also banned ads and commerce listings that imply a product guarantees a cure or prevents people from contracting COVID-19.”

Nick Clegg, Facebook, 25 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/03/combating-covid-19-misinformation/

“Once a post is rated false by a fact-checker, we reduce its distribution so fewer people see it, and we show strong warning labels and notifications to people who still come across it, try to share it or already have.”

Nick Clegg, Facebook, 25 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/03/combating-covid-19-misinformation/

 

“To date, we’ve also removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm. Examples of misinformation we’ve removed include harmful claims like drinking bleach cures the virus and theories like physical distancing is ineffective in preventing the disease from spreading.”

Guy Rosen (VP Integrity), Facebook, 16 April 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/04/covid-19-misinfo-update/

 

“In addition to masks, we’re now also banning ads and commerce listings for hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 testing kits. And if we see people selling these products in organic posts on Facebook or Instagram, we’ll remove them.”

Facebook, 19 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/05/coronavirus/

 

“We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks. We’ll begin to enforce this change over the next few days. We already prohibit people from making health or medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings on commerce surfaces, including those listings that guarantee a product will prevent someone from contracting it.”

Facebook, 6 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/05/coronavirus/

 

“Yesterday we put a new policy into effect to protect people from those trying to exploit this emergency for financial gain. This means we are now 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. For example, ads for face masks that imply they are the only ones still available or claim that they are guaranteed to prevent the virus from spreading will not be allowed to run on our platforms.”

Facebook, 26 February 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/05/coronavirus/

 

“We will also start to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them. We are doing this as an extension of our existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm. We’re focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions. 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.”

Facebook, 30 January 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/05/coronavirus/

 

“At the same times we’re pushing out and focusing on authoritative information, we’re also very focused on making sure that misinformation doesn’t spread. And here we’ve also been able to partner with these organizations, including the WHO, to identify a list of claims that they classify as harmful misinformation, and we’ve been able to operationalize them – that and remove that and that down under the principle we don’t allow content that could cause

imminent risk of danger.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, 18 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/March-18-2020-Press-Call-Transcript.pdf

 

“For content that is going to lead to an imminent risk of physical danger, we take it down. And that’s not just about misinformation that’s hate speech, that could incite violence, that’s terrorism content that we worry about. And for what it’s worth because I know that some of these questions have been about political speech, we don’t allow politicians to say this stuff either. So if a politician is posting something that’s going to incite violence or imminently suppress someone’s voting or right to vote or participate in the census or posting dangerous health misinformation, then we’re going to take that down, too. So basically anyone who is saying anything that can create and imminent risk of harm, we take down.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, 18 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/March-18-2020-Press-Call-Transcript.pdf

 

“We're also focused on stopping hoaxes and harmful misinformation. It's important that everyone has a place to share their experiences and talk about the outbreak, but as our community standards make clear, it's not okay to share something that puts people in danger. So we're removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations. We're also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation -- for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, 4 March 2020, https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10111615249124441

 

“Things like saying that something is a proven cure for the virus when in fact it isn’t: we will take that down. Another example which I know has been very prevalent in the UK has been 5G misinformation, which has led to some physical damage of 5G infrastructure, so we believe that that is leading to imminent risk of physical harm, we take down that content.”

Mark Zuckerberg, BBC News, 21 May 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/technology-52749066/zuckerberg-facebook-to-take-down-coronavirus-misinformation

 

Instagram

 

“On Instagram, we remove COVID-19 accounts from recommendations and we’re working to remove some COVID-19 related content from Explore, unless posted by a credible health organization.”

Nick Clegg, Facebook, 25 March 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/03/combating-covid-19-misinformation/

 

“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.”

Facebook, 30 January 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/05/coronavirus/

 

“We’ll remove COVID-19 accounts from account recommendations, and we are working to remove some COVID-19 related content from Explore, unless posted by a credible health organization. We will also start to downrank content in feed and Stories that has been rated false by third-party-fact checkers.”

Instagram, 24 March 2020, https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/coronavirus-keeping-people-safe-informed-and-supported-on-instagram

 

“This is in addition to our existing policies on misinformation. If posts are rated false by third-party-fact checkers, we remove them from Explore and hashtag pages.”

Instagram, 24 March 2020, https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/coronavirus-keeping-people-safe-informed-and-supported-on-instagram

 

“We also remove false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities as having the potential to cause harm to people who believe them.”

Instagram, 24 March 2020, https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/coronavirus-keeping-people-safe-informed-and-supported-on-instagram

 

“To prevent people from exploiting this public health emergency we’ve already put several new policies into effect. We prohibited misleading ads for products that refer to COVID-19 in ways intended to create urgency, guarantee cures or prevent people from contracting it, and we have temporarily banned advertisements and branded content that promote certain medical supplies, including face masks.”

Instagram, 24 March 2020, https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/coronavirus-keeping-people-safe-informed-and-supported-on-instagram

 

“In addition, we removed the ability to search for COVID-19 related AR effects unless they were developed in partnership with a recognized health organization.”

Instagram, 24 March 2020, https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/coronavirus-keeping-people-safe-informed-and-supported-on-instagram

 

“We’re removing known harmful misinformation related to COVID-19, and when someone taps on a hashtag related to COVID-19, we show resources from @WHO, @CDC and local health authorities.”

Instagram Comms, Twitter, 6 March 2020, https://twitter.com/InstagramComms/status/1235984308994703360

 

“We’re also: [...]

-Blocking and restricting hashtags being used to spread misinformation 

-Banning ads exploiting the situation”

Instagram Comms, Twitter, 6 March 2020, https://twitter.com/InstagramComms/status/1235984311163158529

 

Twitter

 

Under this guidance, we will require people to remove Tweets that include:

  • Denial of global or local health authority recommendations to decrease someone’s likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 with the intent to influence people into acting against recommended guidance, such as: “social distancing is not effective”, or actively encouraging people to not socially distance themselves in areas known to be impacted by COVID-19 where such measures have been recommended by the relevant authorities.

  • Description of alleged cures for. COVID-19, which are not immediately harmful but are known to be ineffective, are not applicable to the COVID-19 context, or are being shared with the intent to mislead others, even if made in jest, such as “coronavirus is not heat-resistant — walking outside is enough to disinfect you” or “use aromatherapy and essential oils to cure COVID-19.”

  • Description of harmful treatments or protection measures which are known to be ineffective, do not apply to COVID-19, or are being shared out of context to mislead people, even if made in jest, such as “drinking bleach and ingesting colloidal silver will cure COVID-19.”

  • Denial of established scientific facts about transmission during the incubation period or transmission guidance from global and local health authorities, such as “COVID-19 does not infect children because we haven’t seen any cases of children being sick.”

  • Specific claims around COVID-19 information that intends to manipulate people into certain behavior for the gain of a third party with a call to action within the claim, such as “coronavirus is a fraud and not real — go out and patronize your local bar!!” or “the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands.”

  • Specific and unverified claims that incite people to action and cause widespread panic, social unrest or large-scale disorder, such as “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for two months — run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything!”

  • Specific and unverified claims made by people impersonating a government or health official or organization such as a parody account of an Italian health official stating that the country’s quarantine is over.

  • Propagating false or misleading information around COVID-19 diagnostic criteria or procedures such as “if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have coronavirus.”

  • False or misleading claims on how to differentiate between COVID-19 and a different disease, and if that information attempts to definitively diagnose someone, such as “if you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus — but a dry cough is” or “you’ll feel like you’re drowning in snot if you have coronavirus — it’s not a normal runny nose.”

  • Claims that specific groups nationalities are never susceptible to COVID-19, such as “people with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production” or “reading the Quran will make an individual immune to COVID-19.”

  • Claims that specific groups nationalities are more susceptible to COVID-19, such as “avoid businesses owned by Chinese people as they are more likely to have COVID-19.”

An update on our content moderation work, Twitter, 27 March 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/covid-19.html#misleadinginformation

 

“We’ll continue to prioritize removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being, but we want to make it clear that we will not be able to take enforcement action on every Tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19. This is not meant to limit good faith discussion or expressing hope about ongoing studies related to potential medical interventions that show promise.”

Broadening our definition of "harm", Twitter, 1 April 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/covid-19.html#misleadinginformation

 

“Since introducing these policies on March 18, we have removed more than 1,100 Tweets containing misleading and potentially harmful content from Twitter. Additionally, our automated systems have challenged more than 1.5 million accounts which were targeting discussions around COVID-19 with spammy or manipulative behaviors. We will continue to use both technology and our teams to help us identify and stop spammy behavior and accounts.”

Broadening our definition of "harm", Twitter, 1 April 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/covid-19.html#misleadinginformation

 

“We may also apply the public interest notice in cases where world leaders violate the COVID-19 guidelines.”

Broadening our definition of "harm", Twitter, 1 April 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/covid-19.html#misleadinginformation

 

“Going forward and specific to COVID-19, unverified claims that have the potential to incite people to action, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical infrastructure, or cause widespread panic/social unrest may be considered a violation of our policies. Examples include, “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for two months — run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything” or “5G causes coronavirus — go destroy the cell towers in your neighborhood!".”

Broadening our guidance on unverified claims, Twitter, 22 April 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/covid-19.html#misleadinginformation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Updating our Approach to Misleading Information, Twitter, 11 May 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/product/2020/updating-our-approach-to-misleading-information.html

 

The following restrictions apply to these use cases:

  • distasteful references to COVID-19 (or variations) are prohibited 

  • content may not be sensational or likely to incite panic

  • prices of products related to COVID-19 may not be inflated

  • the promotion of certain products related to COVID-19 may be prohibited

  • We currently prohibit the advertising of facemasks and alcohol hand sanitizers. Please note that other products may be added to this list and enforcement can be retroactive. 

  • the mention of vaccines, treatments and test kits is permitted, only in the form of information, from news publishers which have been exempted under the Political Ads Content policy.

COVID-19 Guidance for Managed Advertisers, Twitter, 1 April 2020, https://business.twitter.com/en/help/ads-policies/prohibited-content-policies/inappropriate-content.html

 

“Since introducing our updated policies on March 18, we have removed more than Over 2,600 tweets containing misleading and potentially harmful content from Twitter. Additionally, our automated systems have challenged more than Over 4.3 million accounts actioned which were targeting discussions around COVID-19 with spammy or manipulative behaviors. We will continue to use both technology and our teams to help us identify and stop spammy behavior and accounts.”

An update on our proactive enforcement and spam detection, Twitter, 22 April 2020, https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/covid-19.html#proactiveenforcement

 

YouTube

COVID-19 medical misinformation policy

 

YouTube doesn't allow content about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm. 

 

YouTube doesn't allow content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts the World Health Organization's (WHO) or local health authorities' medical information about COVID-19. This is limited to content that contradicts guidance from the WHO or local health authorities on:

 

  • Treatment 

  • Prevention

  • Diagnosis 

  • Transmission

 

What this policy means for you

 

If you're posting content

 

Don't post content on YouTube if it includes any of the following:

 

Treatment misinformation: Discouraging someone from seeking medical treatment by encouraging the use of cures or remedies to treat COVID-19.

 

  • Claims that COVID-19 doesn't exist or that people do not die from it 

  • Content that encourages the use of home remedies in place of medical treatment such as  consulting a doctor or going to hospital

  • Content that encourages the use of prayer or rituals in place of medical treatment

  • Content that claims that a vaccine for coronavirus is available or that there's a guaranteed cure

  • Content that claims that any currently available medicine prevents you from getting coronavirus

  • Other content that discourages people from consulting a medical professional or seeking medical advice

 

Prevention misinformation: Content that promotes prevention methods that contradict information from the WHO or local health authorities.

 

Diagnostic misinformation: Content that promotes diagnostic methods that contradict information from the WHO or local health authorities.

 

Transmission misinformation: Content that promotes transmission information that contradicts information from the WHO or local health authorities.

 

  • Content that claims that COVID-19 is not caused by a viral infection

  • Content that claims that COVID-19 is not contagious

  • Content that claims that COVID-19 cannot be spread in certain climates or geographies

  • Content that claims that any group or individual has guaranteed immunity to the virus or cannot transmit the virus

  • Content that disputes the efficacy of guidance from the WHO or local health authorities on physical distancing or self-isolation measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19

 

Examples

 

Here are some examples of content that's not allowed on YouTube:

 

  • Denial that COVID-19 exists

  • Claims that people have not died from COVID-19

  • Claims that there's a guaranteed vaccine for COVID-19

  • Claims that a specific treatment or medicine is a guaranteed cure for COVID-19

  • Claims that certain people have immunity to COVID-19 due to their race or nationality

  • Encouraging the taking of home remedies instead of getting medical treatment when sick

  • Discouraging people from consulting a medical professional if they're sick

  • Content that claims that holding your breath can be used as a diagnostic test for COVID-19

  • Videos alleging that if you avoid Asian food, you won't get coronavirus

  • Videos alleging that setting off fireworks can clean the air of the virus

  • Claims that COVID-19 is caused by radiation from 5G networks

  • Videos alleging that the COVID-19 test is the cause of the virus

  • Claims that countries with hot climates will not experience the spread of the virus

  • Videos alleging that social distancing and self-isolation are not effective in reducing the spread of the virus

YouTube, 20 May 2020, https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9891785

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