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DES, Facebook collaborate to counter ‘fake news’ on Wuhan virus

Will work together in three areas to battle misleading content on social network; Line asked for similar help

As part of Thailand’s continued bid to combat “fake news”, as misleading and damaging viral online content is known, Minister of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) Puttipong Punnakanta this week sought help from social media giants Facebook and Line.

Puttipong, along with Facebook Thailand’s Head of Public Policy Michael Bak and representatives of the Department of Disease Control (DDC) and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation joined a video conference on Thursday with Facebook Singapore executives who oversee Facebook regulations to discuss how to tackle fake news in the wake of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

All sides were in full agreement that this was an important issue in need of urgent handling, the minister said, noting that they arrived at a three-point conclusion as followed:

1.      All information about the 2019-nCoV should be in both Thai and English so that Facebook is able to help post a link to the DDC to ensure people have access to accurate and credible information;

2.      Facebook users could directly report the fake accounts (multiple social media accounts with different avatars used by an individual to generate posts and comments without revealing out the person’s true identity) by pressing the links “report profile” or “report post”. Facebook already uses AI (artificial intelligence) technology to detect fake accounts on its network as such accounts were mostly sources of fake news; and

3.      Facebook will introduce more intensive measures against fake news about 2019-nCoV including a less-frequent display of the accounts deemed to have frequently posted “fake news” content about 2019-nCoV, a ban on ad purchase or transactions via the Facebook system and a notification to warn those sharing such “fake news” content.

The problem could reach a point at which Facebook would delete “hate speech” or content citing wrong information about 2019-nCoV, which might cause damage if people believed such content, Puttipong added.

The MDES Anti-Fake News Center has been on a crusade against fake news sources about 2019-nCoV situation since last month. Between January 25 and 29, it received 7,587 complaints about such misleading content on Thai social media. Further investigation found most shared 22 items of fake news including a notice that thermal scanning at airports being cancelled, a claim that mouth spray can kill the new virus and that one 2019-nCoV death had occurred in Pattaya.

The center’s probes led to the issuance of arrest and search warrants for individuals in Bangkok and other provinces, Puttipong said earlier this week, adding that the center had also detected nearly 140 fake accounts which it would ask Facebook to check.

As Thailand is also a major user of the Line chat program, Minister Puttipong also said he would be seeking support from Line later on Friday.

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