Facebook said would let the World Health Organization (WHO) advertise for free on the social media platform to help fight the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement in a blog post Tuesday night as the death toll from the new COVID-19 disease in the U.S. reached nine.
Zuckerberg said the company had been working with health authorities over the last month to help with efforts against the growing epidemic. Facebook wants its more than 1.6 billion daily average active users to have access to "credible and accurate information" as organizations such as the WHO provide regular updates.
"This is critical in any emergency, but it's especially important when there are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of infection," Zuckerberg said.
Facebook said when you search for "coronavirus" on the platform, a pop-up will appear directing you to the WHO or a local health authority for the latest information. If you're in a country where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission of the virus, you'll see that alert in Facebook's news feed, according to the social media giant.
Zuckerberg is also giving the WHO "as many free ads as they need" for its coronavirus response. "We'll also give support and millions more in ad credits to other organizations too and we'll be working closely with global health experts to provide additional help if needed," he said.
In addition to the WHO, a United Nations agency, Facebook is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UN's children's charity UNICEF, to help get out timely and accurate information.
"We're also focused on stopping hoaxes and harmful misinformation," Zuckerberg said. "So we're removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations. We're also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation - for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease."
The coronavirus had spread to almost 80 countries Wednesday morning, with outbreaks growing fast in South Korea, Italy, Iran and the United States. More than 93,000 cases have been recorded and more than 3,200 deaths attributed to the disease globally.