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Facebook is giving free ads to the WHO and taking down ‘conspiracy theories’ about coronavirus

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 Facebook Developers conference on April 30, 2019 in San Jose, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that the social network will give the World Health Organization free advertising for its coronavirus response and take down false claims about the virus. 

Users who search for coronavirus on Facebook, will see a pop-up that directs them to the WHO or local health authority for the latest information on the outbreak. Those in a country where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission, will see see that information in their News Feed.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said that the WHO will get free ads and the social network will give “millions more in ad credits” to other organizations too. 

The Facebook founder also said the company will remove “false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations.” 

“We’re also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation — for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease,” he added. 

Facebook has faced heavy criticism for the spread of misinformation on its platform, particularly during political campaigns. The social network was slammed last year after it said it will not fact check or remove content posted by politicians. It appears to be taking a different tact with the coronavirus. 

Researchers are using “aggregated and anonymized” Facebook data, such as population density maps, to understand the spread of the virus, Zuckerberg said. 

Zuckerberg said that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization founded by himself and his wife Priscilla Chan, had teamed up with the Gates Foundation. Through the partnership, researchers in Cambodia were able to sequence the full genome of the virus “in days,” making it “much easier and faster for them to identify” if people had the new coronavirus. 

Last week, Facebook said it was canceling its annual F8 developer conference, which was scheduled for May, due to concerns about the outbreak. The conference was due to take place in San Jose, California. The U.S. has now recorded over 100 coronavirus cases, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.