In an effort to combat misinformation, Facebook has confirmed that it has banned all ads that promise to cure or prevent the coronavirus, or that otherwise intend to spread panic around the novel virus. The coronavirus, renamed COVID-19, has quickly spread throughout China, and has now reached every continent except for Antarctica. Just this morning, Brazil confirmed its first case, also the first for South America. Both South Korea and Italy have seen a sudden surge of cases of the virus in recent days.
The quick spread has fueled concerns over any country's preparedness to handle the virus, and global panic is on the rise. This is, in part, due to very misleading ads about the coronavirus on social media. Some promise a cure or a way to prevent contracting the disease - measures that don't yet exist. Other ads intentionally add fuel to the fire and cause more panic. Tensions are already high as the global economy has suffered the ripple effects of the coronavirus - even Apple has been hit.
Facebook's ban on sensationalist and false ads about the coronavirus comes at a testy time. The social media giant has been criticized for allowing false political campaigns ads on its platforms, as well as recommendations for anti-vaccine pages and groups. Facebook has defended leaving up those ads, pages, and groups to protect free speech, and to avoid policing content. But external pressure has forced Facebook to crack down on them, including false information about the coronavirus, as well as revise its content policies.
Facebook provided a statement to Business insider saying: ”We recently implemented a policy to prohibit ads that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention. We also have policies for surfaces like Marketplace that prohibit similar behavior.”
There's no downplaying the severity of the virus and the necessity to prepare, but false claims and promises can only be detrimental to those efforts.
How to avoid spreading or contracting the coronavirus
Even if the coronavirus hasn't made it to your place of home or work, the World Health Organization says it is very close to becoming a pandemic, stating that the world should do more to prepare for one.
As of right now, there is no cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. However, just like any virus, there are ways you can reduce the chances of contracting the disease. The CDC recommends the following, in addition to other actions:
- Get the flu vaccine
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often and avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Wear a face mask
- Stay home if you are sick
- Have a plan in the event that you or a loved one falls ill
- Check on work or school contingency plans
- Make sure all areas of your home have good air flow
If you're worried about the coronavirus's reach, we recommend looking at the best health insurance companies to make sure that you have the best coverage in the event of an emergency. They will also have advice on how to prepare.