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NHS to combat ‘fake news’ around coronavirus online

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Measures to combat the spread of misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic have been announced by NHS England

Measures to combat the spread of misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic have been announced by NHS England.

The plans, developed with Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, include providing easy access to verified NHS guidance when someone searches for coronavirus. Additionally, NHS England has been working with Twitter to suspend a false account posing as a hospital and putting out inaccurate information about the number of coronavirus cases; and publicly condemning homeopaths promoting false treatments.

‘Ensuring the public has easy access to accurate NHS advice however they search for it, not only will support people to take the right action but will also help the country’s response to coronavirus,’ said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive.

‘The NHS has already been battling coronavirus fake news, from working to take down false Twitter accounts to speaking out against misleading treatments being promoted by homeopaths online. It’s right that social media platforms and search engines take any action so they can help ensure the public are directed to NHS advice first.’

The NHS and Google have also introduced ‘Knowledge Panels’, pop out boxes of information, as part of Google search on mobile, to ensure that the public have access to information about more than 250 health conditions, including coronavirus. Both Twitter and Facebook are directing users to the NHS website if they search for coronavirus.

‘These changes will ensure the latest trusted NHS guidance sits at the very top of Google search lists, so people can be reassured they are reading official, up-to-date Government advice,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

‘Public safety is our top priority and we are harnessing digital tools to reach millions of people on more than 250 conditions they are searching for – including coronavirus – helping tackle misinformation and ensuring the public is well informed to take control of their health.’