(CBS News) – In the wake of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Facebook and Twitter have been forced to respond to the proliferation of fake news on their platforms. And while many probably assume the bulk of that misinformation is political in focus, trolls and bots on social media have actually been linked to the marketing of vaping products, the anti-vaccination movement and now, fake cures for coronavirus.
A quick glance at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok will provide a slew of these fake cures: garlic, masturbation, bleach, even cocaine.
Prominent QAnon YouTuber Jordan Sather, for example, tweeted to his more than 121,000 followers that a “miracle mineral solution,” which effectively involves drinking bleach, can wipe out COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Not only is chlorine dioxide (aka ‘MMS’) an effective cancer cell
killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too,” he wrote. “Big Pharma wants
The FDA has long warned that drinking chlorine dioxide products can lead to “severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure.” Yet, with each new outbreak or high-profile illness that arises, these products are seemingly promoted on social media and sold by independent distributors anew.
Sadly, drinking bleach isn’t the only dangerous “cure” that
bad actors are peddling online to a population increasingly anxious
about the current outbreak. The most recent rumor spreading at a rapid pace is that cocaine will counteract COVID-19.
Facebook — where a third-party fact-checking program is in place — many
of these posts now have false information warnings that serve both to
warn users of the content’s unreliability and to deprioritize them in
the platform’s algorithm. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also addressed the issue
in a March 3 post, saying the company is working with national
ministries of health and organizations “to help them get out timely,
accurate information on the coronavirus.”
On Twitter, however, some of the most prominent posts spreading dangerous misinformation have gone unchecked — even from verified accounts. Bizzle Osikoya, for example — a Nigerian music and entertainment developer with more than 190,000 followers — tweeted a doctored image, which purports to be a screenshot of a breaking news segment on TV. It has gotten nearly 6,000 likes and almost 3,000 retweets, and has remained on the platform for more than a month without any sort of warning the content’s falsehood.
For the first time Sunday, Twitter rolled out a “manipulated media” label. However, as CNET senior producer Dan Patterson
points out, this label can still be problematic in that it may give
users a false sense of security that all posts without it are accurate.
As illustrated by Bizzle Osikoya’s tweet above, that is clearly not the
In fact, according to the Washington Post,
an investigation by the U.S. State Department found that a staggering 2
million tweets in circulation during a three-week period between
January 20 and February 10 propagated coronavirus conspiracy theories
and misinformation. That means that 7% of all coronavirus content on the
platform was false.
To make matters worse, many of those tweets reportedly linked to YouTube videos, signaling that the current deluge of coronavirus misinformation has spread well beyond Twitter and Facebook.
Sunday, in an effort to combat such viral disinformation, the French
Ministry of Health tweeted a firm rebuttal: “No, cocaine does not
protect against COVID-19. Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug. Using
it can seriously harm people’s health and create undesirable effects.”
In perhaps the most stunning sign of the times, the World Health Organization created a TikTok account
to combat all of the misinformation there and give teens the real facts
on what is rapidly becoming the most popular social media platform
among that demographic.
Incredibly, their TikTok on when and how
face masks should be worn already has more than 40 million views. Their
first video on how to protect yourself from coronavirus has more than 33
million. So, there may be hope for the truth yet.
asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson told CBS News, “We continue
to expand our dedicated search prompt feature to ensure that when you
come to the service for information about COVID-19, you are met with
credible, authoritative content at the top of your search experience. We
have been consistently monitoring the conversation on the service to
make sure keywords — including common misspellings — also generate the
“Our global Trust & Safety team is continuing
its zero-tolerance approach to platform manipulation and any other
attempts to abuse our service at this critical juncture,” the
spokesperson continued. “At present, we’re not seeing significant
coordinated platform manipulation efforts around these issues. However,
we will remain vigilant and have invested substantially in our proactive
abilities to ensure trends, search, and other common areas of the
service are protected from malicious behaviors. As ever, we also welcome
constructive and open information sharing from governments and
academics to further our work in these areas — we’re in this together.”
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
Continue Reading Below
Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
Continue Reading Below
But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update
Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines
John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark
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