While health authorities are working to stop the spread of coronavirus, social media giants are facing a contagion of their own: conspiracy theories. And in a bid to crackdown on the infodemic of misinformation, we may find ourselves facing restrictions in the digital world as well.
YouTube and other social media platforms are taking steps to limit the spread of conspiracy theories falsely connecting 5G networks and the coronavirus pandemic after racking up several views and shares. Many social media and internet platforms have already taken some steps to stem the spread of misinformation surrounding coronavirus, banning content that references fake treatments and cures and highlighting reliable information in search and in feeds.
But conspiracy theories such as the false 5G connection have fallen into a gray area. Google’s YouTube calls such videos “borderline content” which means they are not in direct violation of its policies. But the company said in a statement to CNN Business on Monday that the videos could lose advertising revenue and will be removed from search results. The company said it is also reducing recommendations of such content in its algorithm.
YouTube isn’t alone in its bid to limit the spread of misinformation.
In the same vein, WhatsApp is tightening its limits on message forwarding even further, in a bid to stem the spread of misinformation amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Facebook-owned messaging app is expanding on global measures it put in place last year which restricted the number of times people could pass on frequently forwarded messages to five chats at once.
The company has now reduced the number of chats to which users can share frequently forwarded content to just one at a time. It announced the new changes in a blog post on Tuesday.
We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers.
However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.