Facebook adds new notifications for COVID-19 misinformation

The new notifications are much more explicit than Facebook's previous messages.

Facebook is doing more to alert users who have shared dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. The social network is introducing a new notification that will tell users that a post they liked, shared or commented on has been removed due to “potentially harmful information about COVID-19,” Fast Company reports.

The update is Facebook’s latest escalation in its handling of misinformation about the pandemic. Up until now, the company had surfaced posts in users’ News Feeds when it detected they had interacted with coronavirus misinformation. But these alerts were widely panned, as the language was vague and didn’t explicitly tell users that they had shared information that had been deemed harmful. Instead, the posts (pictured below) encouraged users to visit the World Health Organization’s website.

The previous messages Facebook sent to users who. shared harmful misinformation were vague.

With the latest update, Facebook is now acknowledging those messages didn’t go far enough. The new notifications will be much more detailed. “Clicking on the notification will take users to a landing page where they can see a thumbnail image of the offending content, a description of whether they liked, shared, or commented on the post, and why it was removed from Facebook,” Fast Company explains. “It also offers follow up actions, like the option to unsubscribe from the group that originally posted the false information or to ‘see facts’ about COVID-19.”

Facebook's new, detailed notifications users see when a post they likes was removed for sharing misinformation.

That may sound like a big improvement from Facebook’s previous approach, but there are still some caveats. As Fast Company notes, the new notifications don’t actually debunk the harmful misinformation, so users will still need to so a bit of extra work if they want to find correct information. It’s also important to note that Facebook will only send these alerts to users who shared misinformation it’s deemed dangerous enough to remove, which is a smaller subset of all bogus coronavirus claims on the platform (less harmful posts are instead debunked by the company’s fact checking partners).

There’s also the fact that this step is coming many months into the pandemic after a lot of damage has already been done. Facebook has already taken down more than 12 million pieces of harmful misinformation about the coronavirus, and has labeled millions more. At the same time, the company is gearing up to fight a wave of coronavirus vaccine misinformation, so Facebook will likely still have plenty of opportunities to use the new notifications.