Social Media, widespread misinformation and fake news

As the coronavirus pandemic expands, social media platforms must deal with widespread misinformation and fake news that unfortunately triggers fear and panic to the public. Such false and inaccurate information, often characterised to have deceiving content, suggests – amongst other – (i) ways to avoid getting infected by the virus, (ii) which face masks are the best or even (iii) conclusions regarding the period of quarantine based on unsupported data.

People will obviously seek information regarding COVID-19 across the web. The social media analytics platform Spinklr even indicates that on March 11th, more than 19 million mentions were made on social media, blogs and online news-sites throughout the world. This is not an assumption that all the mentions were either mocking or deceiving, but due to the nature of online sources and the desire for more clicks, it is an undoubted implication that many of them do refer to fake news and/or fake stories. Social media platforms needed to take immediate measures to tackle this spread of misinformation and effectively change this new online behavior being experienced.


The leading social media platform has seen an outbreak of misleading information since COVID-19 began. For that, Facebook has banned ads and trade for face masks, hand sanitisers and disinfectant wipes and even products that trigger fear and panic by promising miracle cures. Instead, they have given unlimited ads to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Additionally, Facebook is promoting the WHO and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S to searches made about COVID-19. CEO,  Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is planning to add an information box at the top of the News Feed which will be managed by the company’s own Coronavirus Information Center and will give real-time updates from trustworthy and reliable sources. Adding to that, Facebook has pledge to invest $100 million in the U.S news industry as well as in worldwide journalism. 


Similarly, Instagram proceeded in blocking and restricting coronavirus and covid-19 hashtags (#coronavirus & #covid19) and instead it redirects users to the official websites of the WHO and CDC. The platform also bans ads that take advantage of the crisis situation and bans users from searching filters with Covid-19 related themes, unless they were made by official health organisations. With this in mind, the addition of educational resources was implemented within Instagram search, coupled with stickers that promote safety instructions.


In order to stop the spread of misinformation, WhatsApp partnered with the WHO and built the ‘WHO Health Alert’ which is a chatbot that people can use to access reliable information about COVID-19. This messaging service gives the opportunity for nearly 2 billion people to get the latest news on coronavirus including situation reports and numbers.


Removing tweets that might put people at risk is one of the measures that Twitter is taking in order to stop the spread of fake news. In particular,  Twitter shared that their safety rules have been edited and contain the banning of tweets that “could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19“. Fake news on so called “expert guidance” or “treatments” and “diagnostic techniques” will be prohibited.


Aiming to reach younger audience (25-35 years old), the WHO also partnered with TikTok to provide facts and safety tips, informational videos, livestream Q&As and trends that promote health safety. A great example is the #SafeHands challenge which was spread in more than 70 countries. Adding to that, the WHO created a verified TikTok page and shares up-to-date information related to the COVID-19 crisis.


One of the strictest measures was implemented by Pinterest. Using AI technology, Pinterest fights Covid-19 misinformation by finding keywords associated with misinformation and blocking related pins. Adding to that, keywords related to coronavirus are restricted and instead results from worldwide health organisations are provided, as well as advising users to contact health professionals directly.


YouTube will not remain aloof from this crisis. The WHO website is promoted by a pop-up window on YouTube homepage. Additionally, when people search for COVID-19 related information, the platform prompts them to view only verified videos and removes harmful medical misinformation content. Governments and NGOs are also able to create free ads.

On March 16th, the major social media platforms and their parent corporations – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and reddit – along with Google and Microsoft, have issued a joint statement announcing their efforts to fight misinformation during coronavirus crisis: “Were helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world”. All the above aim to primarily keep people safe and informed about the virus and eventually to eliminate the spread of misinformation and fake news. The ultimate goal of social media platforms is to support global and local health experts and follow the instructions provided by official Public Health Communities and Local Governments. 


Why moving to eCommerce matters

Buying and selling online is easier than ever and a necessity for a company’s sales strategy considering there will be over 2billion online buyers in 2020. With people searching for online sales solutions rather than physically going to stores for shopping and research is indicating that by 2040, around 95% of all purchases are expected to be via e-commerce, the necessity of owning an online store is a must. With Internet of Things and digital transformation, online shopping can be easily done from the comfort our homes, either by shopping from mobile devices, tablets, laptops or computers.

We note some of the key reasons why companies should consider going online and creating their own eStore:

  1. Better opportunity to gain customers, not only on a local level but globally as well.
  1. Attract more customers by setting up audience/target groups and making your online store SEO friendly.
  1. Increase the number of sales by online ads.
  1. Your store will be open 24/7 where your competitors may be open during ‘regular’ business hours.
  1. A better case for not missing a sale as buyers are more likely to make an online purchase rather than waiting for a physical store to open.
  1. Payments through online stores can be safe and secure via credit cards or other Point of Sales’ 3rd trusted parties.
  1. Online stores can be fully personalised to meet your customers’ needs and wants and to maintain your brand presence.
  1. Have full control of analytics and data by integrating with Google Analytics.
  1. Online stores can operate on any device both (iOS or Android).
  1. An unlimited number of products or services can be showcased on your online store.
  1. Combine your content and eShop sales strategies, as it has been proven that 61% of online shoppers are likely to make a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.
  1. Let’s not forget that some big data: 93.5% of global internet users have purchased products online!

There are multiple methods of creating a personal online store. The best way is to speak with experts in the field who can ask the right questions and consult with the solutions which would be applicable. The information that needs to be considered includes the store size (how many products/services, their types, the connection to a database for ease of logistics management, the interconnectivity with other digital areas of your business and so on).

A solution being discussed below includes using WordPress with WooCommerce plugin. WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin specially designed for WordPress which powers over 28% of the online stores globally. It supports many features, such as displaying products, the shopping cart, checkout pages, shipping options which will include label printing and taxes that in many cases can be automatically generated according to which country the sale will be completed in, etc. WooCommerce is also available on Facebook as a plugin. By downloading and installing a specific Facebook Pixel you will be able to synchronise your online store products with your Facebook page. Social Media and your store integrated!

WooCommerce has a big community of developers and there is a wide range of plugins which are available to support unique business needs. These are affordable solutions that can be integrated in an easy and effective WordPress design (whether a template or a custom-built website). Compared to other eCommerce platforms in the market, the combination of WordPress and WooCommerce is SEO friendly. WooCommerce can be used to sell anything – it is incredibly flexible and whether your business sells subscriptions, digital products, physical products and more, it is a solution to consider. Last but not least, it is important to think about the future of the online business strategy. WooCommerce is an application that can grow with your growth and is scalable, supporting from a few products to many thousands of products.

At Techlink, we offer a wide range of web solutions that support the entire process of creating an online store. Our team of experts, is here to help you.

For more information and a consultation on your eCommerce requirements,  contact us here.