1. News
  2. Explained

Twitter Bans Tweets Spreading Misinformation About the Coronavirus Pandemic: How Fake News is Being Fought

Professor of Financial Economics and Part-time Value Investor, Transfin.
Mar 20, 2020 3:56 AM 2 min read

If you’re an active Twitter user, two things will seem obvious to you. One, the coronavirus pandemic has already taken many lives, infected thousands, and crippled entire economies. And two, many accounts on Twitter are harming the fight against the virus by spreading misinformation and fake cures.


In this age of misinformation, we look at what three agencies - social media companies, international bodies and startups - are doing to combat the lies and fake news.


What Social Media Companies are Doing


Twitter has updated its safety policy to prohibit tweets that “could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.” The new policy bans tweets denying expert guidance on the virus, encouraging “fake or ineffective treatments, preventions and diagnostic techniques” as well as tweets that mislead users by pretending to be from health authorities or experts.


In its blog post, Twitter says that it will “require people to remove Tweets” if they violate the updates policies. Those tweets that claim social distancing or washing your hands are ineffective or don’t work will be taken down altogether.


Recently, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft came together to issue a joint statement saying they are “working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus...We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”


What the World Health Organisation did


After declaring a global health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organisation had previously launched a campaign with the hashtag #KnowTheFacts in order to counter various falsehoods about the virus.


These lies had gained traction on social media, and they include everything from claims that sesame oil and garlic can help prevent infections to advice that the way to block the contagion is to keep your throat moist at all times. Google, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter have also announced steps to tackle misinformation spreading on their platforms.


What are Startups Doing?


Regional language content startups are now bridging the information gap in India by educating non-English-speaking people about the pandemic.


Josh Talks, Vokal, Lokal, NoticeBoard, Youth Ki Awaaz, DailyHunt, and Trell among others are making and sourcing content from authentic, verified sources, and partnering with local bodies and health agencies to ensure accuracy.


Other startups like scooter sharing platform Bounce, social commerce site Meesho, Sheroes, and e-pharmacy firm 1Mg are also cross-sharing relevant videos and audio messages on their respective platforms. All this content in regional languages reaches a wider audience amongst India’s burgeoning non-metro internet-connected population, who may not be adept at English and thus could miss out on vital information on sites like Twitter or Facebook.


How well do you know the top news of the last week? Have a go at our TheWeekThatWas Quiz and test your wits.