The World Health Organization (WHO) organized a meeting that brought together the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Google, with the goal of stopping the spread of misinformation about the new coronavirus, officially called COVID-19.
The meeting was hosted by Facebook at its Menlo Park, California campus, CNBC reported, citing a spokesperson for the social media company. Other companies represented at the meeting include Airbnb, Dropbox, Kinsa, Mapbox, Salesforce, Twilio, Twitter, Verizon, and YouTube, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. Apple, Lyft, and Uber were given invitations, but did not send representatives.
The WHO shared information with the companies regarding its response to the coronavirus, while the attendees shared ideas on dealing with the outbreak. The main topic of the meeting was how the companies were working to deal with the fake news about the coronavirus. WHO’s Andy Pattison said that the “tone is changing” as the tech firms were starting to ramp up their efforts to stop the spread of misinformation, and he offered to help them in fact-checking information posted on their platforms instead of relying on third-party sources.
“Twitter and YouTube and other social media sites are still awash with misinformation,” Pattison said, referring to the coronavirus misinformation spread as “infodemic.” This includes fake news stories on Facebook and other social media platforms, books on Amazon that stoke fear about the coronavirus, and conspiracy videos on YouTube. The misinformation has also allowed hackers to take advantage of the outbreak, spreading malware through emails that are supposedly about the coronavirus.
The coronavirus has had a significant impact on the tech industry worldwide, as authorities race to contain the outbreak. The Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile phone show, was canceled after major companies started pulling out of the annual event due to fears about the coronavirus, while various airlines have started suspending flights to mainland China, which is the epicenter of the outbreak. The coronavirus has also deeply affected the gaming industry, including the delayed production of the Nintendo Switch in Japan and possibly also the halted manufacturing of the sold-out Valve Index.
One reliable source regarding the coronavirus outbreak is a dashboard created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, which brings together data from several official bodies that include the WHO.
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