Public health officials have been closely monitoring the developments related to coronavirus transmissions. So far, data confirms that the precautionary guidelines imposed such as social distancing, lockdowns, and basic hygiene practices have a notable impact. Everyone is encouraged to regularly check with official channels for the latest updates regarding COVID-19. However, there are reports about hoaxes or misinterpreted news circulating online. Earlier this week, Twitter detailed its plans to take action over posts which share information about the pandemic.

Healthcare professionals have been voicing their concerns regarding the upsurge of fake news amid the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. Misinformation about treatments, vaccines, and protocols can have alarming implications. Shortly after several high-profile endorsements of the alleged effectiveness of certain drugs, it was observed that people quickly hoarded supplies. Others were spreading lockdown exit strategies that were allegedly leaked by government insiders.

Twitter will take action against these types of messages depending on the content. Tweets that contain valid COVID-19 information, but are incomplete will be modified to show a link to an accredited resource. Meanwhile, some that appear to suggest otherwise will be issued a cover label that reads "some or all of the content shared in this tweet conflict with guidance from public health experts regarding COVID-19," according to Fox News.

The company is supposedly launching this digital crackdown as soon as possible and will even likely extend to older posts. Sources note that it will not explicitly tag these tweets as hoaxes. Twitter global senior strategist for public policy Nick Pickles explains: "People don't want us to play the role of deciding for them what's true and what's not true but they do want people to play a much stronger role providing context."

Furthermore, Google and Facebook have also expressed their commitment to stop COVID-19 misinformation. Social media platforms have been criticised over the years for their lax policy against users.

Twitter starts implementing new policy
Twitter has started implementing a new policy that clearly labels manipulated content. Photo: AFP / Leon NEAL

Given the crucial nature of the pandemic, most are taking a heavy-handed approach when it comes fake news. On the other hand, Twitter acknowledges that it will remove posts that encourage people to attempt anything unsafe. With internet usage at an all-time high due to the virus, it is essential that misleading reports should be filtered accordingly.