Social Media Platforms and Parent Companies Join Forces to Counter COVID-19 Scare

by Chandu Gopalakrishnan |
Social network majors — from Facebook to YouTube — issued joint statement on fighting COVID-themed fraud and misinformation on their services

The world’s largest social network platforms and their parent companies have issued a joint statement, promising to counter coronavirus-themed fraud and curb misinformation on their platforms.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit have signed the join statement and shared on their official social media handles.

The joint statement comes days after it was reported that Kratsios US government’s chief technology officer Michael Kratsios called on the representatives of these tech majors to help the administration in alleviating the online issues such as fraud and misinformation campaigns that ride on the coronavirus pandemic.

These tech majors have already pledged their support to the government’s drive to counter the online threats that capitalised on the public panic on the disease, reported the Wall Street Journal.

“It is encouraging to see industry giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter coming together to coordinate a joint response to tackle the wave of misinformation growing out of the Coronavirus crisis. The statement for the group, which also included Linkedin, Microsoft and YouTube, pledged to work together in order to combat fraud and misinformation about the virus,” commented Saryu Nayyar, founder and CEO of Gurucul.

“The online spread of misinformation or false information can have a disastrous impact on, not only physical, but also mental health, especially at this particularly distressing time. Misinformation is certainly not a new problem but hopefully this coordinated response from industry giants will be effective and will extend beyond the COVID-19 crisis as tech majors realise the benefits of working together to combat global issues,” she added.

The intention is good, but the initiative to combat all forms of fraud and misinformation should have happened long back, commented Javvad Malik is security awareness advocate for KnowBe4.

“It is unlikely it will make much difference. It is important though that awareness around misinformation is continually raised so that people are better-equipped with the ability to question information they see online and come to their own conclusions,” he said.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve substantially scaled up our investments in safety and security, including by rapidly growing content review teams and expanding our machine learning capabilities,” said a Facebook statement.

“For both our full-time employees and contract workforce there is some work that cannot be done from home due to safety, privacy and legal reasons,” it added.

An act of corporate social responsibility from the tech majors was long overdue, noted Brian Higgins, security specialist at Comparitech.

“It’s just a shame it’s taken a global pandemic to force them to act and people are rightly sceptical of their collective agenda. You need only read the comment thread following their Twitter post to see that,” he said.

Criminals are already seeking to take full advantage of the COVID-19 scare, from fake outbreak ‘trackers’ to fraudulent crowd-funding websites asking for donations to help scientists find a cure, and, above all, phishing campaigns.

“It will be interesting to see if these companies are genuinely going to act to stop the rising tide of cybercrime that the COVID-19 outbreak is currently unleashing upon the sick and vulnerable, or if they will just make more platitudinous statements and continue with business as usual,” Higgins added.

“Other tech companies should look at this as a stark warning that technology will always be used and abused by those without good intentions, so therefore they should look to build systems that are resilient to abuse and can provide users with clear indicators as to where information may not be what it appears to be,” added Malik.

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