Facebook's Sandberg says even politicians can't post virus lies

In a photo taken on Jan 19, 2019, chief operating officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg speaks during the Digital-Life-Design conference in Munich, Germany. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said that as the social network gets more aggressive in policing misinformation about the coronavirus, even politicians, celebrities and those posting in private groups aren't exempt from the rules.

Earlier this month, the company said it would remove false content and conspiracy theories about Covid-19 that health authorities flagged as harmful.

On Monday, Ms Sandberg said Facebook - which has a policy of not fact-checking political ads - would apply the rules even to the platform's most powerful voices.

"We are taking down any harmful misinformation on the coronavirus," she said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

So far, Facebook hasn't reported any major takedowns, even as some politicians downplay the potential severity of the virus, and some celebrities spread conspiracy theories about its origins.

The kind of content that would be taken down is more severe, such as posts that give people false information on how to protect themselves against the virus, Facebook said.

Ms Sandberg said Facebook is sharing high-quality information with celebrities, like the proper technique for hand-washing, in the hopes that they will share it with their fans.

Medical misinformation tends to thrive in Facebook's private groups, which are more difficult to monitor.

But Ms Sandberg said even those communities would be subject to the rules "as soon as we can find it".

Ms Sandberg's interview coincided with the announcement of a multi-million-dollar donation by her and other technology executives to a local food bank in the San Francisco Bay Area, where school closures are threatening hungry families.

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