Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in January, almost all social networks are striving, each in their own way, to help make people more aware of this global problem, provide accurate information, and stop misinformation and harmful content.
So Facebook has announced, among other things, a ban on ads seeking to exploit coronavirus fears, and News Feed prompts to highlight relevant, accurate information on the outbreak. Facebook has also announced that it will provide access to its Local Alerts tool “to even more municipal governments, state and local emergency response organizations and law enforcement agencies” to help them disseminate relevant news and information to their communities.
As explained by Facebook:
“As COVID-19 has spread across the US, local governments have used Facebook to share critical information with their communities about this fast-evolving situation. Because of the increasing need to get timely and accurate information for local communities, we’re expanding access to Facebook local alerts to even more municipal governments, state and local emergency response organizations and law enforcement agencies. “
Facebook has also offered training to relevant employee groups as they begin using the local alerts tool to implement best practices.
Since the beginning of 2018, Facebook has been working with local authorities to help them communicate urgent, the information they need to know when it directly affects people in their communities or requires special actions.
When authorities mark posts as local alerts, Facebook greatly enhances their reach, so users living in deprived regions are likely to see them.
In addition to prominent placement in users’ News Feed, that includes sending notifications to those living in affected areas, as well as displaying the information in “Today In” – a new section dedicated to local news, community information and neighbor talk.
For now, the alerts seem to be working. In fact, 73% of Facebook users who received local alerts reported the posts as new information they had not yet seen elsewhere, according to internal research.
Either way, it is highly commendable to see such initiatives at a time of global threat as the COVID 19 virus certainly is. It is vital that anyone who has the ability, help that proven and timely information reaches as many people as possible so that we all together overcome this crisis as soon as possible.