Jan 30, 2020 - Science

Big Tech tries to curb coronavirus misinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech companies are responding to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak in two main ways: limiting employee travel to China and trying to make sure their users have access to accurate health information.

Why it matters: Like the virus itself, the spread of misinformation is hard to slow.

Driving the news:

  • Google has temporarily shut its offices in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. (The mainland China office handles some sales and engineering for Google's ads business.)
  • Apple said Tuesday it has closed one store in the region.
  • All the big tech companies told Axios they are following CDC advice and limiting non-critical travel to China.
  • Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is contributing $14.5 million to help fight the spread of the disease, per Bloomberg.

Our thought bubble: The big question now is whether the outbreak and travel limits lead to lost revenue or product delays.

Meanwhile: On the content front, Google, Facebook and Twitter are all taking steps to promote verified information.

  • Facebook has been giving ad credits to the World Health Organization and Philippines Department of Health to share information. It is also returning dedicated information modules when users search for terms related to the outbreak.
  • YouTube is returning text results when people search for "coronavirus" and other terms, reminding users that the situation is rapidly changing while also aiming to point to authoritative video results. Google is also trying to put extra focus on verified information in search results, including showing information that has been fact-checked where possible.
  • Twitter has adjusted its results to point to authoritative, local-language information when people search for virus-related terms.

At the same time, Bloomberg reports that false information is spreading fast. The Daily Beast reports that TikTok videos show teens pretending to have the disease.

Go deeper: The new age of global pandemic risk

Go deeper

Facebook steps up effort to fight coronavirus misinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook said Thursday it will take further steps to ensure its social network is home to accurate information about the fast-spreading novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: The move comes as the World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency and amid the continued spread of misinformation through social media.

Misinformation about coronavirus is spreading fast

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Misinformation about the coronavirus is testing governments, tech platforms and health officials — as well as a nervous public — in both the U.S. and China.

Why it matters: The new cycle of misinformation around the deadly disease is testing Big Tech platforms' ability to police rule-breaking content and China's ability to control domestic criticism.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

The new age of global pandemic risk

Travellers wear protective masks at Hong Kong High Speed Rail Station on Jan. 29. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

The collision of urbanization, population growth and the rapid movement of people and goods across borders is heightening global pandemic risk.

Why it matters: Aside from the tragic human cost, outbreaks such as the coronavirus, and the fear that accompanies them, are threatening to roil geopolitics and the global economy.

Go deeperArrowJan 29, 2020