Fake news about the novel coronavirus disease is a rampant problem across our social timelines. Think misinformation about treatments, symptoms and anecdotes tainted with racism and xenophobia.
As scientists and health professionals are still scrambling to find a cure, and even contain the outbreak, falsehoods can resonate more than they might during a time of confidence and stability.
New Jersey, which has roughly 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID19, has partnered with New York-based Yext to get accurate and up to date information out to residents. Yext partners with businesses to send verified answers to consumers, and, in this case, verified information about the outbreak to residents.
The New Jersey Office of Innovation and Yext created an online portal tacking live state updates and orders, testing information and assistance information for businesses and employees. It also has a hub that presents the most researched questions, like “how can I prevent myself from getting the virus” and gives answers from scientists.
If you scroll to the bottom of the portal, there’s an interactive map detailing COVID-19 cases by county. Beyond the portal, residents can find information through Yext integrations with Google, Bing, Alexa, Siri, Apple Maps, Uber, Lyft, Facebook and more.
Yext is working with other state agencies and businesses right now and offering its services pro bono, after seeing an uptick of users searching for COVID-19 answers on its platform. The New Jersey online portal was initiated and launched in five days, per a blog post.
This isn’t the first example of fighting misinformation that we’ve seen. WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messenger system, has become a hub for misinformation spread through viral texts. This weekend, to help people “prepare, not panic,” India launched at chatbot on the popular platform to create awareness about COVID-19 (and my mom, who is in New Jersey but lives on WhatsApp, says she received messaging about it).
Twitter responded to fake news threats by prioritizing its blue checks, its verification badge, for experts and professionals around COVID-19 so users can know when facts are coming from a trustworthy source.
It also broadly banned any tweets about COVID-19 that could help the virus spread. Ideally, this would target tweets with false claims about the outbreak. Twitter’s efforts proved weak when a tweet from Elon Musk about how children are not vulnerable to coronavirus did not get deleted.
We’re also seeing efforts from the CDC and WHO to make sure everyone is informed on best practices during this scary time. The flurry of efforts of different organizations, both private and public, comes to show that while washing hands is an important tip to remember, our education, when accurate, most definitely shouldn’t stop there.