Technological platforms are battling to control the rumors of coronavirus

BENGALURU: Technology platforms are struggling to control misinformation about the new Coronavirus through search queries, content removal and checker grouping, amid a flood of social media with alarming warnings, potential treatments and rumors which comes from China.

On Friday, Twitter launched a special search prompt for India with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that individuals receive persistent health information from the right sources when searching for the virus.

Facebook, Google and YouTube are also flashing the same link to the WHO website if they are looking for "coronaviruses" or related terms on their platforms.

Some Indians enthusiastically took to the Internet to "educate" fellow users about the prevalence of the virus, possible preventive measures and treatments.

While most videos rightly ask people to avoid crowded areas, wear masks and maintain basic hygiene, some have inaccurately claimed that Ayurvedic medicines, including garlic and mint leaves, can cure the virus. Some have even raised the alarm by saying that patients infected with the virus have a zero survival rate.

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The virus, first discovered in Wuhan in Hubei province last year, is causing respiratory problems. It is transmitted between humans and animals. Scientists have not yet found a vaccine for the infection. The death toll has risen to 800 in China, with a total of 37,500 deaths.

Facebook has also begun to remove content with claims and conspiracy theories that have been dismissed by WHO or other trusted health experts and could harm people who believe them. The world of social media is centered on claims that, if one is based on information, will make them more likely to fall ill or not receive treatment. This includes claims related to fake treatments or prevention methods – such as saying that alcohol chloride cures the infection – or claiming to discourage treatment or confuse the available health resources.

"As the global public health community works to keep people safe, Facebook supports their work in many ways, primarily by limiting the spread of misinformation and harmful content to the virus and linking people to useful information." , said Kang-Xing Jin, Head of Health at Facebook in a blogpost.

The Chinese video platform TikTok, owned by ByteDance, has warned its users in 8 Indian languages, asking them to verify the data with reliable sources, including WHO or local government resources, creating, viewing or interacting with them related to coronavirus.

It has also asked users to report content that they believe violates TikTok community guidelines. #Coronavirus hashtag videos have been viewed 786 million times on TikTok.

A TikTok spokesman told ET that his Community guidelines do not allow for misinformation that could harm his community or the general public and would eliminate deliberate efforts to mislead credible news sources.

Regional language social media platform ShareChat's public policy chief, Berges Y Malu, said the company is deeply concerned about the issue of fake news and has multiple third-party audits that examine content in 12 languages. He added that any content that is found to be inaccurate in reality is flagged as such on the platform.

Helo, a regional linguistic social media platform also owned by ByteDance, said it provides easy access to reliable sources of information through Helo's official accounts in 10 local languages ​​and works with event audits to limit the spread of misinformation.