How Google and Apple are fighting Corona Virus Misinformation
Apple and Google are fighting to prevent coronavirus misinformation by taking down apps that do not come from government or official health organizations.
App developers said that Apple is taking down any coronavirus-related apps that are not coming from the official government or health organizations. Google’s policies with approving new applications are not so clear but the apps are not appearing on the Play Store results page.
While the coronavirus-related results for apps seem to be blocked for Android users, we don’t know whether Google is directly banning it or not.
According to CNBC, Google has policies against applications that overlook the existence of ‘major tragic effects’ those that ‘capitalize on atrocity, natural disasters, death, tragic events or lack reasonable sensitivity towards these things’ and applications that seem to ‘profit from tragic events with no benefit to the victims’.
Google declined to comment on this story, but there are a number of applications that are approved and can be trusted when searching for information about the virus. These include those from the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, The American Red Cross, Doctor on Demand and news apps such as News 360 and the official Twitter app.
Applications found to be in destruction of the policies can be taken down as well, meaning it does not just apply to the yet-to-be-published ones still under review.
Google has also taken the Facebook route by banning ads related to the virus, although several offenders are slipping through the cracks.
Mark Heyden of Cheaper Trees has observed a rising concern in his community and a rising number of worried clients. He says, “this is an unprecedented moment. It’s important to see big companies with such authority approach the situation with a strong sense of calm and responsibility. It is significant that Google takes caution and doesn’t encourage panic around the pandemic.”
Apple seems to be catching new COVID-19 related apps through its manual review process. They stated to CNBC, “Apps with information regarding the current medical information or status need to be submitted by a recognized institution.’’
Currently, the top-ranking apps related to COVID-19 are primarily benign. These include an app from Unbound (a medical resource company), a Portuguese-language application released by the Brazilian government, and a ‘virus tracker’ application from a company known as Healthlynked.
There are several well-meaning apps from independent developers that rely on WHO data and information from well-established health organizations, but Apple is banning these as well and limiting the trusted sources just to official health institutions and the government. Apple also refused to comment.
Google and Apple are not the only firms making an effort to reduce the misinformation or content that seeks to exploit the virus outbreak for financial gain. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have also put policies in place that ban COVID-19 misinformation.
David Xiberras of Richmond Kitchens says the fact that influential social media such as Facebook or Instagram taking action could have a benefit of decreasing the stress that people experience around coronavirus.
He says, “the constant news cycle, misinformation, and bombardment of fearful messages on social media has people especially panicked. No wonder, since even if you don’t go on social media to check for the COVID-19 updates, you’re bombarded with information. We should try to eliminate the panic as much as we can.”
Amazon is also cracking down on product listings that are trying to take advantage of the virus outbreak by either gouging health products like face masks and hand sanitizer or claiming to provide protection or cure against the virus.
YouTube is also demonetizing videos that seem to be talking about the subject, although the protocol in this isn’t entirely clear.
It's reassuring to see big influential companies online taking action to prevent misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Be cautious when reading information online, resist the urge to panic and stay safe.