Social media platforms have played a crucial role in disseminating news about the spread of COVID-19. And with such a wide scope of responsibility and overall power over the distribution of information, many platforms are rushing to do what they can to help, including donating to support relief efforts, taking steps to prevent fake news, and offering advice to companies
Platforms are taking their role in the crisis seriously and are continuously rolling out new measures to not only raise awareness about the seriousness of coronavirus, but also fight the misinformation about the pandemic.
Much like brands that have been pitching in to help their employees or their communities, platforms have stepped up in a variety of ways. Here’s a rundown of initiatives social media platforms are implementing:
Facebook, together with its founder Mark Zuckerberg, has been in the spotlight since the pandemic first began. The platform has rolled out tight measures to fight misinformation across the board for the 2.5 billion people that use the social network monthly.
Continuous efforts are being made to bring in even more regional partners to help with fact checking on a global scale. Users are also encouraged to help by flagging suspicious posts. In addition to these measures, Facebook is prioritizing the newsfeed to favor more credible sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other national and regional authorities.
As people increasingly turn to social media to stay up-to-date with current events, taking extreme initiatives to combat fake news is crucial.
Facebook is also doing their best to make an impact in the “real world.” The company donated 720,000 facemasks that it had in reserve for wildfires and promised to source “millions” more. The social network also pledged to donate up to $145 million to various causes, including healthcare workers and small businesses.
To combat misinformation, WhatsApp has taken the lead and provided users with a space where they can receive up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. In partnership with WHO, UNICEF, and UNDP, the Facebook-owned messaging app launched the Coronavirus Information Hub. WHO has also launched a chatbot on Whatsapp to warn people about the coronavirus’ dangers.
It’s a smart move on WhatsApp’s end as it combats the spread of misinformation that has sometimes plagued the platform. After crossing the threshold of two billion users in February, it’s more important than ever that WhatsApp’s large user base be able to rely on the platform to stay connected without being led astray.
To take the initiative even further, the company also pledged $1 million to the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). The grant will support the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, which is present in more than 100 local organizations in at least 45 countries.
Instagram is also taking tight measures to prevent the spread of misinformation by prioritizing their feed’s algorithm in favor of trusted sources of information. They have also highlighted the seriousness of the pandemic by banning searches for coronavirus related AR effects.
However, Instagram’s main priority during the pandemic is promoting self-isolation. They are doing so by rolling out Stay Home stickers and creating new ways for friends to connect, including launching a new way to browse Instagram together with friends over video chat.
By taking these steps, Instagram is supporting a trend of distancing from public places and encouraging its users to highlight this in their profiles as well. The popularity of these new features reportedly almost crashed the site as users flooded the platform’s servers.
After Zuckerberg’s announcement that Messenger was seeing double the usual traffic, it was clear that more steps needed to be taken to prevent a breeding ground for misinformation. Messenger announced that it was providing government agencies with free developer tools and launching a hackathon to explore how developers can create messaging solutions.
UNICEF, as well as the Health Ministries of Pakistan and Afghanistan, were quick to use the resources to improve their communication with the public via Messenger.
These steps could be crucial as all authoritative institutions are seeing a huge increase in queries on social media. People are reaching out for more information, clarifications, and service-oriented help. It’s more important now than ever for these organizations to be accessible by the public.
Like other platforms, Twitter has seen a significant increase in numbers. The platform’s number of active users in the first three months of 2020 increased by 23% compared to the end of 2019.
To help shelter its users from misinformation, the platform is banning any tweets that could impact the spread of the virus. Additionally, Twitter reignited its profile verification process to mark all the accounts with an iconic blue check mark that can provide reliable information to the public.
The increase of users on Twitter demonstrates that people are turning to social media platforms to stay updated with the latest information or to distract themselves while in self-isolation. The platform’s efforts to keep the information flow relevant and trustworthy is extremely important as fake specialists might emerge and spread false news and panic.
Twitter isn’t forgetting about its business pages, either. The platform offered some advice to companies caught in the middle of this unprecedented global crisis:
Twitter also pledged to support quality journalism by donating $1 million split evenly between the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation.
In light of cancellations to some of the largest professional conferences, from SXSW to Adobe Summit 2020, LinkedIn scaled its events platform to help companies reach global audiences.
In addition, the professional networking platform unlocked 16 LinkedIn Learning courses, which users can access for free. The courses mostly cover topics about remote working and include tutorials on some virtual meeting tools (i.e. Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, Zoom).
LinkedIn is also offering a helping hand to those businesses unsure how to react to this global situation by publishing tips on what to post during the pandemic. The platform is trying its best to ease the transition to working and connecting remotely, which is very relevant to all the businesses trying to keep the ball rolling even amidst the pandemic.
Given the large audience in Asia, TikTok was early to roll out a disclaimer to seek trusted COVID-19 information on all the videos featuring any reference to the virus. As a result, the platform is working closely with WHO, which includes hosting town hall style livestreams where users are able to ask questions directly to health experts.
But to keep their community entertained and engaged during the isolation period, TikTok also hosted daily #HappyAtHome livestreams featuring household names like Arnold Schwarzeneger, Alicia Keys, and DJ Khaled.
Entertainment has been an essential tool to help keep spirits lifted during the pandemic. TikTok understands its role on that front and has done its best to achieve balance, lightly incorporating educational content in streams to keep audiences alert to what’s happening around them.
Taking its partnership with WHO further, TikTok has also pledged to donate $10 million to WHO’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
YouTube is also investing a lot of effort to combat the spread of misinformation. Videos advising people to cure the virus at home rather than seek medical assistance are just one example of content that is being removed from the platform.
Additionally, all videos around COVID-19 have been demonetized, meaning no ads are placed around these videos. Seeing an increase in platform usage, YouTube has also switched video playback to standard definition by default as networks all around the world have been getting congested due to the number of people spending time online.
YouTube is a well-known resource for quick tips and solutions, so it is incredibly important to track content that is being published on the platform. Demonetizing coronavirus-related content definitely helps remove some incentive for people to make videos with bad advice in an effort to gain quick money on this trending topic.
For marketers this is also good news, because no one would want their product or service being promoted next to distasteful video ads.
In recent news, Millennials and Gen Z, the main demographics that use Snapchat, have been criticized by health authorities for not taking the virus seriously. As a result, Snapchat is taking steps to raise awareness on different aspects of the topic to change perception – and hopefully actions.
That information campaign includes “Here For You”, a mental health resource available to users. Here users can search for content from experts on topics like mental health, anxiety, depression, suicide.
Another unique way Snapchat has been incorporating educational content into the platform has been through bitmoji stickers, reminding people to not touch their faces and encouraging people to stay at home. And there’s “Coronavirus: The Latest”, which pins the most up-to-date – and factual – pandemic news to top of the Discover page.
The platform has also taken a more creative road to bringing valuable information to a wider audience with an interactive quiz that tests users’ knowledge about the core characteristics of the coronavirus.
Pinterest is known more as a source for creative inspiration than a source of news, but as usage has surged the platform has done its best to provide a bit of both.
Pinterest launched the new “Today” tab, a combination of trending and curated pins like information from WHO and Centers for Disease Control on topics like hand washing during the coronavirus epidemic. Additionally, Pinterest is staying in touch with brands and supporting them by bringing helpful content to followers amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
During these uncertain times, Pinterest is staying true to themselves while also trying to keep the community informed and inspired. They are using the peaked audience’s attention to spread awareness and help them settle into their new routines – be it by setting up a home office or planning a delicious home-cooked meal.
Whether it’s by making financial contributions or rolling out new features designed to help keep people safe, it’s great to see platforms taking steps towards fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Each platform is taking great responsibility for their communities of millions (or in some cases, billions) of people globally and looking for creative solutions to stop misinformation, raise awareness, and help people adapt to the new normal.
Social media is Sarma’s favorite playground – ask her about her screen time and she’ll change the subject. She’s a proud advocate of social media literacy who loves surrounding herself with data.