Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube have issued a joint statement in which they promise to disinfect their platforms of contagiously incorrect COVID-19 content.
“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts," the statement says. "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. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
The statement appeared on Facebook’s Corona response page.
Details of the joint effort have not been detailed, but the big social networks are known to collaborate on content signatures to help identify content that doesn’t deserve a platform.
Whatever its nature, the combined action is surely welcome. But it is also problematic because most of the platforms listed above have previously allowed all sorts of other toxic content to circulate freely
Facebook has infamously continued to allow egregiously false political advertising, been accused of ignoring its role in genocide and ruled that images of breast feeding is sexual content worthy of deletion. Reddit admits that some of its larger communities flaunt its rules but keeps them up anyway behind a flimsy reg-wall that it calls “quarantine” (but has been decent enough to not place ads on such subreddits). YouTube hosts all manner of junk, while Twitter has often been oddly friendly to extremists.
LinkedIn’s endless parade of self-promoting self-help gurus passing off the bleeding obvious as business wisdom is just plain offensive.
That all are now making an effort to ensure misinformation does not poison the body politic is nonetheless welcome.
But the extra focus on nasty content will also have consequences: Google has warned that it is prioritising certain support chores – including content filtering – with the result that other matters may take longer to resolve. And YouTube has advised that some videos may not be reviewed or surfaced with usual speed.
“We recognize this may be a disruption for users and creators, but know this is the right thing to do for the people who work to keep YouTube safe and for the broader community. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we take these steps during this challenging time.” ®