By Jeff Horwitz
Facebook Inc. will roll out a coronavirus information hub at the top of users’ feeds on the platform, as the company scrambles to adapt its products amid the global pandemic.
In a press call on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walked through the company’s efforts to suppress misinformation, prepare for users’ mental health issues and support governmental responses during the growing crisis.
With quarantines and social distancing causing spikes in the usage of Facebook’s products, Mr. Zuckerberg said, the gravity of the medical and economic risks posed by the virus requires Facebook to prioritize the public good.
“Even in the most free expression friendly traditions of the United States you’ve long had the precedent that you don’t allow people to yell fire in a crowded room,” he said.
Mr. Zuckerberg, who said he was himself working from home during the call, described the strain that the pandemic has put on Facebook. The company has cleared out all but what it considers essentially public health and safety employees from its offices and sent its vast army of contract content moderators home at the same time that its products are experiencing a sustained surge of usage surpassing what the company experiences even on New Year’s Eve.
Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook intended to prioritize certain types of content moderation at the expense of others.
“I’m personally quite worried that isolation from people being at home could lead to more depression and mental health issues. I want to make sure we’re ahead of that by having more people work on suicide and self harm,” he said.
The information hub will feature a persuasion campaign of celebrities endorsing social distancing, reliable academic research, and visualizations explaining the importance of limiting the virus’s spread, messages that Mr. Zuckerberg said “are the most important for us to be pushing out and encouraging.”
The company is already offering extensive free advertising to the World Health Organization and governmental authorities.