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Facebook to start reminding users to wear a mask

By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent

Facebook is to begin reminding users to wear a face covering to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The social networking giant is introducing alerts at the top of its news feed and on Instagram to encourage users to wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.

Face coverings are mandatory in Gibraltar only in certain locations including public transport, the airport terminal and healthcare facilities.

But they are compulsory in all public spaces in Andalucia, even if social distancing is possible, and will become mandatory in shops in England later this week.

The Facebook alerts will include a link to World Health Organisation (WHO) information on preventing the spread of Covid-19 and how masks can help, the company said.

Earlier in the pandemic, Facebook introduced a dedicated Covid-19 Information Centre, offering clear and prominent links to official guidance and health information from the NHS and the Government as part of efforts to stop the spread of misinformation linked to the virus.

Social media platforms have been criticised for failing to prevent a number of false claims and misinformation from circulating online.

In a new effort to combat this threat, Facebook also said a new Facts About Covid-19 section was being added to the Information Centre, which will “debunk common myths”, identified by the WHO, related to the virus.

Steve Hatch, Facebook’s vice president for northern Europe, said: “We want Facebook to be a place where people can stay informed and connected during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“To help reduce the spread of this virus, from today people using Facebook and Instagram will see alerts reminding them to wear a mask when they can’t keep a safe distance from others.”

“Through other alerts on our platforms we’ve directed over 3.5 million visits to the latest accurate information from the UK Government and the NHS.”

“We’ve also removed hundreds of thousands of harmful posts relating to the virus and, working with fact-checkers like Full Fact, placed warning labels on more than 90 million posts.”

“Continuing this fight against misinformation we’re creating a new section of our Coronavirus Information Centre called Facts About Covid-19, which will debunk many common myths identified by the WHO.”

Facebook said its Information Centre had so far directed more than two billion people to the WHO and other health authorities for guidance on the virus, and more than 600 million people had clicked through prompts to learn more.

Chronicle staff contributed reporting to this article.

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