Facebook to start Coronavirus Info Hub; video calls and lives doubled: Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook announced the launch of a Coronavirus Information Hub with help from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg went live on Instagram early on Thursday, March 19 to address a press conference with journalists. He talked about the steps the social networking giant is taking in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. He announced the launch of Coronavirus Information Hub with help from the World Health Organisation(WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The hub will provide daily reports on COVID-19, and information on social distancing as well as how to go on about it. 

“This is a stressful and challenging time, especially for the community in Italy, France, South Korea, and eastern Asia...My family and I are healthy,” Mark said. 

He further went on to discuss how Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsAppare focused on making sure that people get access to “good and authoritative information.” For the same, Facebook has partnered with the WHO and the CDC. Facebook has further added links of CDC and WHO on its platforms, to answer Q&As and tips on prevention of COVID-19. “We are providing them with free ad credits,” he added. 

Recently Facebook agreed to offer $1 million to its partners in the International Fact-Checking Network, working on the COVID-19 related misinformation. The fund consists of ‘flash-grants’ of up to $50,000 required to coordinate the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance in at least 45 countries. 

Mark also noted that Facebook has been taking steps to limit misinformation and harmful content about the pandemic, including banning ads intended to create panic or promote unproven cures. 

“WHO provided us with a list of claims that might be encouraging sick people to not seek medical help. We are taking all of that down,” Mark said. 

Yesterday, people took to Twitterto post that Facebook had started marking a few authentic posts as ‘spam.’ Articles related to coronavirus and COVID-19 were marked as being ‘Against Community Standards’ by Facebook. According to Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice-President of Integrity, it was due to a bug in the anti-spam system, and was later fixed. 

Staying connected 

“In times of crisis and disaster like these, where people cannot be together with their friends and family, users have been using our services in newer ways across the world,” Mark said. 

He said how the Pope in Italy has been using Facebook’s live feature for the daily mass. Additionally, doctors in Italy are going live from the hospitals to keep people informed about the ground realities. 

“Video calls and lives on our platforms have doubled in numbers. Group chats have gone up by 5x. Our focus is now that the services stay up, and stay flex with the increased usage. The internet infrastructure is under a lot of pressure with people working from home, and we need to work on that and make sure that the network runs smoothly,” Mark said. 

He also added that even before governments across the world gave orders to socially distance and work from home, Facebook had globally recommended its employees to work from home, except a few critical employees. 

(Edited by Kanishk Singh)