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Facebook adds coronavirus ‘information center’ to News Feed

Facebook is taking new steps to encourage its billions of users to take social distancing seriously amid the coronavirus pandemic. The social network will start placing a coronavirus “information center” at the top of users’ News Feeds, Mark Zuckerberg announced.

The messages will begin appearing in users’ News Feeds in the next 24 hours in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and be available in more countries and languages over time.

Similar efforts the company has undertaken on Instagram, the messages will provide users with accurate and up-to-date news about coronavirus in an effort to reduce misinformation. But in addition to sources like the CDC and World Health Organization, Zuckerberg said it will also include Facebook posts from local officials and celebrities encouraging users to cooperate with social distancing efforts.

“We’re designing it to be very adaptive so that on a day-to-day basis the messages … vary from location to location,” Zuckerberg said during a call with reporters announcing the update. He noted that while many people are aware of the threat posed by coronavirus, “a lot of what needs to happen is people need to be convinced” to take social distancing seriously.

The information center will also offer statistics tracking confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses, and include information on school closures, according to screenshots of the feature. Another section, titled “Why You Should Stay Home,” links to articles about the importance of social distancing amid the pandemic.

The information center is the latest, and perhaps most aggressive, step Facebook has taken in the wake of the pandemic. The social network also created a news hub aimed at WhatsApp users, given free advertising to the WHO and other organizations, and taken ramped up fact checking to beat back coronavirus hoaxes.

Yesterday Facebook dealt with a surge of complaints from users who were notified that their posts related to the novel coronavirus were in violation of community standards and removed. The mass removal of COVID-19 posts led a flurry of content censorship accusations against the social media company.

Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of Integrity, confirmed the problem and said it was due to a bug in an anti-spam rule, adding that the issue was “unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce.”

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