China Outbreak Facebook

A Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. Facebook says it’s working to help limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the coronavirus and will focus on providing helpful information to people.

Facebook says it’s working to limit the spread of misinformation and potentially harmful content about the coronavirus as bogus claims about the ongoing outbreak circulate online.

Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook’s head of health, announced that the social media platform will begin removing posts that include false claims or conspiracy theories about the virus that have been flagged by health authorities. The company said it will focus on posts that discourage people from getting medical treatment, or that make potentially dangerous claims about cures.

The company will also limit the spread of posts debunked by its third-party fact checkers, and send users who shared the post a notification.

Users who search for information on the virus on Facebook, or who click on certain related hashtags on Instagram, will receive a pop-up providing authoritative information on the virus. In addition, information about the outbreak will also appear at the top of Facebook users’ news feeds based on guidance from the World Health Organization.

“We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can,” Jin wrote in a post. “Not all of these steps are fully in place. It will take some time to roll them out across our platforms.

Since the outbreak began a number of misleading claims and hoaxes about the virus have circulated online. They include false conspiracy theories that the virus was created in a lab and that vaccines have already been manufactured, wildly exaggerations about the number of sick and dead, and potentially harmful claims about bogus cures.

The coronavirus has now infected more than 20,600 people around the world, based on numbers released Friday. Some 425 deaths have been reported in China, with most of the deaths in the central province of Hubei.

The U.S. declared a public health emergency on Friday, as the nation’s seventh case was identified, and there have been 11 confirmed cases in the United States through monday.

Other internet companies have announced their own efforts to stem the flow of misinformation about the disease.