Facebook is working to "quickly" remove false information about the coronavirus from its platform, according to its Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The social networking company also announced it will give $100 million to 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries as owners grapple with the economic effects of the pandemic.
"These are unprecedented times, maybe the defining time of a century," Sandberg told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King in an exclusive interview. "Small businesses all around the world are really struggling. They are worried that their doors are closing, unable to make payroll."
The $100 million will be "in grants, mostly cash and some ad credits on Facebook," she said.
Businesses were reaching out directly to Facebook for help, Sandberg said. "And we're very close to small businesses because, you know, so many — 140 million small businesses use the Facebook platform."
Any small business that would like to apply for a grant can go to facebook.com/grantsforbusiness.
"We're going to ask you to tell us about your business. We're going to ask you to tell us what your plans are to weather the storm and how you're going to use this money, and we're going to try to help," Sandberg said.
Facebook also partnered with the World Health Organization to make sure that the information about coronavirus on its platform is correct.
"We want people to get accurate information," Sandberg said. "So from the beginning, we've been working with the WHO to take down any harmful information, debunk claims that are false. But also get their information in front of people."
Sandberg didn't say how much false information has been removed, but said the company is "always vigilant."
"In this area, we've gone one step further and we're removing things quickly if they're harmful," she said. "I also think there's a lot of information people need. They need information about local school closings. They need information with local health organizations."
"I wanna be really clear. For this crisis, any fake information is down. It is down no matter who the source is. It can be a politician, it can be anyone. If it's harmful and it's fake, it's down," Sandberg said.
But the company's policy on campaign ads and political speech is different.
"What we've really done is made sure that anything that's harmful can't be put on the site in terms of regular content or groups or ads. When it comes to generalized political speech, whether that's in ads or that — we really think that, as one company, being the arbiter of truth is too much power and something that kind of sounds like we should do it, but as soon as we started doing it, everyone would be, like, 'Oh my God, Facebook's deciding what's true and false,'" Sandberg said. "And political speech is very heavily scrutinized. One politician says something, they run it in an ad, they say it in a speech. The person running against them says it's false, and that process we think continues and needs the full-throated opportunities people have."
Facebook also has its own cases of coronavirus.
"They're young. They're doing well so far, from what I know," Sandberg said. "We're protecting people's privacy. We're not announcing our number of cases. For me, the employees that have allowed me to know who they are, I've been directly in touch. Some have wanted their privacy, and I've respected that, and we're just doing everything we can to help people."
The company has recommended its employees work from home, made sure everyone is still being paid and gave all their full-time employees an extra cash benefit of $1,000, Sandberg said.
"We told everyone, everyone's going to get their bonus for this half. We're actually giving it higher than the full bonus," she said. "We also feel very strongly about this. We're paying everyone. We pay our contractors, we pay our employees. Whether you're sick, whether you're healthy, whether you can work, whether your job can go home, we're paying people."
Asked if those measures are an attempt to redeem the company after some unflattering press, Sandberg said, "I think this is an attempt to take the responsibility we have and do everything we can, and I think this is a moment where everyone needs to do that. This is not about what will feel good. This is about what will make a difference."