Facebook is providing the World Health Organization (WHO) with free ad space in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In a post on Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network is providing WHO with “as many free ads as they need” for outreach related to the outbreak. It’s also providing “ad credits” to other organizations and is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and national ministries of health.
The wheels are already in motion. If you search for “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” on Facebook right now, the first result is a pop-up directing to a local health organization’s website. (In New York City, it’s the CDC.)
Per Zuckerberg, Facebook is also focused on stopping the spread of misinformation and hoaxes about the virus. The platform plans to remove false conspiracy theories and will block ads that falsely promise a cure or make other false claims.
There’s no doubt that a successful campaign of this nature would be a welcome relief to users with outbreaks in their communities (or anyone worried about COVID-19’s spread). Still, as we know, Facebook promising to stop misinformation and Facebook actually stopping misinformation are very different things — and purging false ads has proven difficult for the platform in the past.
Facebook is one of multiple tech companies extending free services in response to the virus. Google announced on Wednesday that it will give all G Suite customers free access to advanced Hangouts features through July 1st, while Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial for its premium tier of Microsoft Teams.
To date, there have been over 92,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 3,000 deaths. While the vast majority of cases are still in China, there are also outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan. There are over 100 confirmed cases in the US.