Major tech platforms say they’re ‘jointly combating fraud and misinformation’ about COVID-19

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A group of the biggest technology companies in the US say they have banded together in a commitment to fight coronavirus-related fraud and misinformation. The group includes Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube. All seven companies sent out a joint statement Monday evening announcing the effort.

“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts,” the joint statement reads. “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

It’s unclear what the joint effort will involve; not all of the participating companies initially said what they’re committing to doing or how this might effect existing moderation policies. But coronavirus-related misinformation has been running rampant on internet platforms since the outbreak began last December. Tech companies have been more proactive than usual in taking down hoaxes cracking down on fraud and other abuses, like price gouging and fake coronavirus cures, but the issue has proved unprecedented in its complexity and scope.

Last week, representatives from Silicon Valley companies met with the Trump administration to discuss measures they could take as an industry to combat coronavirus misinformation, according to the Washington Post. Representatives from companies including Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter and Cisco spoke with the administration, but not all of these companies signed onto Monday night’s joint statement.

Twitter told The Verge that it will start providing non-governmental organizations advertising credits to boost public health campaigns and warned that their elevated moderation efforts could result in some enforcement “mistakes.”

Earlier today, the White House was forced to debunk a rumor circulating on social media that President Donald Trump was considering a national lockdown to halt the spread of COVID-19. Other fake rumors have included a shutdown of the NYC subway system and a fake list of medical tips purporting to be from Stanford University, among a wave of near-constant misinformation, hoaxes, and fake coronavirus cures spreading across Amazon, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and other platforms.

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