Facebook commits US$20m to battle COVID-19

Facebook is committing US$20 million to the UN Foundation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the CDC Foundation in a bid to tackle COVID-19. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently that Facebook is matching up to US$10 million in donations to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO and 100% of funds will directly support the work to prevent, detect and respond to the outbreak worldwide. The solidarity response fund enables individuals, companies and foundations worldwide to directly support WHO's global work to help countries prevent, detect and respond to the virus outbreak in accordance with the WHO strategic preparedness and response plane.

According to the fundraiser description on Facebook, the donations support efforts to track and understand the spread of the virus; to accelerate efforts to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments; and ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information.

All of the donations made through Facebook will go to the solidarity response fund. Meanwhile, 95% of donations made through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund will go to WHO for its global response efforts, with 5% used by the UN Foundation to cover the costs of online transactions. The fund was created at the request of WHO by the UN Foundation in partnership with the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation. The other US$10 million will go to the CDC Foundation, which will launch a fundraiser in the next few weeks focused on combating the outbreak in the US.

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said Facebook is giving WHO as many free ads as it requires for the COVID-19 response along with other in-kind support. He added that it is also providing support and millions more in ad credits to other organisations and will be working closely with global health experts to offer additional help if required.

"We're also focused on on stopping hoaxes and harmful misinformation. So we're removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations," Zuckerberg said. He added that Facebook is removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations, as well as blocking individuals from running ads that attempt to exploit the situation. For example, ads that claim their products can cure the disease.

Meanwhile in a previous statement to Marketing, Facebook's spokesperson said it has already added strong warning labels to the false content, alongside a link to accurate information from its fact-checking partners, which include Associated Press, AFP Hong Kong, PolitiFact, and Rappler IQ in the Philippines. This forms part of its efforts to tackle the spread of fake news during the virus outbreak.

Separately, Instagram is no longer allowing users to search for COVID-19-related AR effects, unless they were produced in partnership with a recognised health organisation. The platform said in a tweet that this is part of its ongoing effort to better connect users to credible health information.

Facebook joins other companies that have donated to a response fund for the virus outbreak. Earlier this month, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, as well as The Seattle Foundation, and United Way of King County, unveiled a regional COVID-19 Response Fund. Both Microsoft and Amazon have pledged US$1 million while Starbucks has set aside US$250,000 for the fund. Meanwhile, Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation recently announced that they collaborated to source and donate much-needed materials to combat COVID-19 to afflicted areas in Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain. Currently, both parties have sourced and readied for shipment 500,000 testing kits and a million masks to be donated to the US.

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