- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Several of the world’s leading Internet companies are proactively fighting the spread of misinformation about coronavirus online with new partnerships, different approaches, and the reorganization of resources.

Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube issued a joint statement announcing they are working “closely together” to combat misinformation on their platforms.

“We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world,” the joint statement said. “We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

Facebook said Tuesday it established a $1 million grant program for the International Fact-Checking Network to boost its capacity amid the coronavirus crisis. Facebook said it is separately partnering with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association to distribute $1 million in grants to local news organizations covering the coronavirus in the U.S. and Canada.

Twitter vice president of trust and safety Del Harvey said the company is looking to amplify and elevate authoritative information from expert organizations, official government accounts, and health professionals using its platform.

“We’re working in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, and ministries of health in nearly 64 countries to provide people with access to credible information,” Mr. Harvey said in a statement. “We’re also making the latest facts easy to discover by placing them at the top of people’s timelines and within the Explore tab.”

Mr. Harvey said Twitter was not seeing “large-scale coordinated platform manipulation” surrounding coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon. He said Twitter would continue to remove smaller coordinated attempts to “distort or inorganically influence” the conversation surrounding coronavirus.

Google is shifting its attention to prioritize critical support work, including preventing coronavirus-related scams. YouTube, a Google company, said it is going to start relying more on technology to review content on its platform instead of its workers. YouTube said the decision will allow it to quickly quash harmful content and allow its workers to follow workplace precautions amid the crisis.

“As we do this, users and creators may see increased video removals, including some videos that may not violate policies,” YouTube said in a statement Monday. “We won’t issue strikes on this content except in cases where we have high confidence that it’s violative. … We’ll also be more cautious about what content gets promoted, including livestreams. In some cases, unreviewed content may not be available via search, on the homepage, or in recommendations.”

Collectively, the Internet companies are working in unprecedented ways, which is creating an uncertain environment about what to expect in the coming days.

“We know that right now, people around the world need information, communication and computation more than ever,” Google said in a statement on its website. “We’re deeply committed to helping. All our products remain fully operational. The changes we’re making to our operations won’t impact their availability. However, given the steps we need to take due to these unprecedented times, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support in some cases.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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