The spread of the novel coronavirus is alarming for health officials and news junkies alike. But another, very different, group of viewers is paying attention to the news in hopes of making a quick buck: scammers.
We live in a golden age of scams, and nothing drives people into the arms of con artists like a genuine crisis. The number of infected people is growing rapidly and frightened internet users are desperately scouring the web for updates and cures. Tap or click to see some of the misinformation spreading online.
Of all of the online platforms, Facebook is one of the most notorious for misinformation. Fake coronavirus cures have been advertised all over the platform, but Facebook is finally taking a stand against it. It’s officially banning coronavirus snake oil “cures.”
Protect yourself from this deadly disease for just $19.99!*
Facebook has finally decided to enforce its rules on fake news and misinformation, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. In response to a massive rise in quack medical cures and fearmongering, the platform will now ban ads for products and services that claim to cure or prevent the virus.
In a statement to Business Insider, Facebook said they “recently implemented a policy to prohibit ads that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention.”
The spokesperson also claimed Facebook will “have policies for surfaces like Marketplace that prohibit similar behavior.”
This is a significant departure from previous company statements where Facebook refused to get involved in fake political news out of fear of infringing on free speech.
In the case of quack coronavirus cures, there is the matter of money to be made. Perhaps this is the main reason for Facebook’s change of heart. After all, ads are Facebook’s bread and butter. Tap or click to see just how far this company goes with advertising. The last thing the company wants is for people to start questioning its ads.
How can I spot fake coronavirus news and products on Facebook?
Right now, social media is a hotbed of misinformation. Stories about secret deaths and infections are common, as are apocalyptic urges to stock up on weapons, ammunition, food, gold and specialty water filters. Tap or click here to see if you can tell the fake coronavirus stories from the real ones.
But many of these stories are pure hokum. That said, it’s never a bad idea to stock up on food and medical supplies in the event of a disaster. But claims of bioweapons, bat soup and millions of “hidden deaths” are unverifiable. If the facts don’t back up the stories, then the stories aren’t worth sharing.
And the same logic should go for any “cure” you see advertised online. According to the WHO, there is no cure for this novel disease, and vaccine research is still ongoing. Those who become infected must simply endure the illness and treat its symptoms until their bodies recover.
So if you see anyone trying to sell you a specialty drink, mask or pill that will protect you from, or cure the virus, you’re dealing with a scammer.
Thankfully, the best way to prevent yourself from catching the disease doesn’t cost you four easy payments of just $19.99. Just frequently wash your hands with soap and water, cough or sneeze into your bent elbow and avoid areas where the infection has spread, such as China or Italy.
Spread this knowledge to your friends online, instead. It may not make the rounds as fast as fake news or quack medical cures, but at least it’s rooted in facts.