Right now, we are dealing with an unprecedented situation in our modern lives. The spread of COVID-19, also called the novel coronavirus, is dominating the news and changing the way we live our lives. New information and statistics are coming out daily, and it's important to be able to sift through what is accurate and what isn't.
As of now, there is no cure for COVID-19, per reliable medical information from experts around the world, but that isn't stopping opportunists from peddling supposed cures for the virus to those desperate to feel secure. While many states are taking legal action against the false claims, once the rumors are out, they spread. The responsibility then falls on online community trust and safety professionals to do all that is possible to stop the spread of misinformation in its tracks.
The "Miracle Cure" Situation As It Stands for COVID-19
In uncertain times, there are always people willing to exploit those anxious to find a solution. Among the fake COVID-19 cures swirling around online are products such as essential oils, tinctures, teas, and colloidal silver.
The promotion of colloidal silver is especially alarming since the product consists of silver particles in liquid that provide no benefit to the body and in fact, may even be harmful. Some well-known names have been making false claims and selling COVID-19 cures and are already facing some heat for it.
Alex Jones, of the conspiracy theory website Infowars, claims that his toothpaste and other products for sale on his website "kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range." Currently on his website, Jones is promoting his products as "the boost you and your family need" with a small footnote denying any claims of a Coronavirus cure.
The New York Attorney General Letitia James has since issued a cease and desist notice to Jones, in part saying: "As the coronavirus continues to pose serious risks to public health, Alex Jones has spewed outright lies and has profited off of New Yorkers' anxieties."
Pastor Jim Bakker is also getting in on the game. Guest Sherrill Sellman came on his show and claimed a product called Silver Solution had been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and was effective. Not only that, but Sellman claimed it also cured all strains of SARS and HIV. The state of Missouri has filed suit over the claims.
The Response of Trust & Safety Professionals
Seven of the biggest tech companies and social media platforms, namely Facebook, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, released a joint statement on March 16th:
"We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We're helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe."
It is unclear what they each intend to do, but Facebook has taken an incredibly proactive approach, launching a COVID-19 resource center for its users.
What Tech Companies Can Do to Help
Having nimble and adaptable tools to help combat the spread of false information is of paramount importance in our communities, especially now. Trust and safety professionals can count on Spectrum Lab's Guardian tool to help automate controls for our ever-changing global situation. Controls are customizable and simple to update so that you can be ready for whatever new information or misinformation may appear in online communities.