Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement at the weekend, South Africans have begun the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

With that war mostly being fought from the comfort of your home, Facebook has outlined how it will combat misinformation and keep South Africans informed about the disease.

The social network has announced that it is working with the National Department of Health and Praekelt to roll out COVID-19 Connect.

This is a WhatsApp based hotline that will deliver accurate health information regarding the spread of the disease.

To join the hotline add 0600 123 456 to your contacts and then open WhatsApp. The contact should be there instantly but if it’s not, wait for WhatsApp to refresh and it should appear.

The hotline is a bot and the information being shared is rather beneficial. To start the conversation simply say “Hello” or “Hi”.

Facebook has also said that it is partnering with NGOs and health agencies who are spreading accurate information regarding COVID-19. To assist these organisations Facebook will provide advertising credits so accurate information reaches more people.

The World Health Organisation and the Department of Health here in South Africa will receive advertising credits, allowing them to run education campaigns.

“We’re committed to partnering with governments, technology companies, and civil society to respond to the immense challenges presented at this time here in South Africa and across the African continent. Ensuring people can access credible and accurate information on our platforms is vital, and we encourage all users to check the facts via official public health agencies before sharing messages that have been forwarded to them,” said regional director for Facebook Africa, Nunu Ntshingila.

In order to limit the spread of misinformation locally, Facebook is working with third-party fact-checkers to review content and debunk fake claims. These fact-checkers include AFP and Africa Check.

Thanks to Africa Check, Facebook is able to check claims in Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele.

As you might expect, content with false claims or harmful health misinformation will be removed.

“Facebook will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram and conduct proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as possible,” the social network added.

In addition to hashtag blocking on Instagram, Facebook has moved the World Health Organisation and other authoritative sources to the top of Search so folks can find accurate information more easily.

With so much being done to spread accurate information online there really is no excuse to share misinformation. Be sure to think and verify information before you share it and risk causing panic.