Social networks are riddled with falsehoods about all sorts of things. But when it comes to incredibly sensitive issues like health and disease, these companies have an ethical obligation to root out unverified information, including conspiracy theories, faux cures, and sensationalist views. That is what Google is trying to do with crackpot theories about the coronavirus.
Already platforms like Facebook and Twitter are struggling to tackle the issue. Each platform has seen posts about the deadly outbreak being a global conspiracy, bioweapon, and baseless "cures" advising people to drink vitamin C, oregano oil, and saltwater. Or plain bleach.
Resources for everyone — On Thursday, Google tweeted that it had launched an SOS alert with the World Health Organization in order to provide resources on the coronavirus. "When people search for related information on Google," the company tweeted, "they'll find the alert atop results page with direct access to safety tips, info, resources, and Twitter updates from WHO."
Basically, Google is implementing factually sound reorganization for its search page. Instead of random and false information showing up in the top results for the coronavirus, you will see top stories and trending credible tweets on the outbreak. Then right below these two decks, a "Help and Information" directory appears. Compiled by the WHO and presented by Google, these links provide advisory information, condition overview, and an FAQ page. Google also offers a readily available Safety Tips section from the WHO.
YouTube to straighten up, too — The Google-owned website is attempting to get more serious about bogus claims, faux theories, and misinformation regarding the coronavirus. From now on, if you're trying to find videos about the deadly outbreak, YouTube will shore up credible sources like medical experts as well as verified news outlets. This change will be implemented to its recommendation system, too. So once you're done with one video, the next will (hopefully) come from a trustworthy source.
Swift and effective content moderation won't limit the spread of coronavirus but it certainly helps to cleanse ignorance online. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google — which are perennial epicenters for fabrications about medicine and health — should feel morally obligated to flag and remove these posts or they are effectively part of the problem.