NHS works with tech firms to tackle coronavirus ‘fake news’

Searches on Google and social media sites will direct users to official NHS guidance

Online searches related to coronavirus will direct users to official NHS guidance Picture: iStock

The NHS has announced plans to tackle fake news about the coronavirus, as UK experts predict cases to peak within the next fortnight.

It is working with technology and social media companies Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to help the public access accurate information about COVID-19.

Coronavirus search will direct users to official guidance

The range of measures includes Google directing internet users to verified NHS guidance when they search for ‘coronavirus treatments’ or ‘coronavirus symptoms’.

Searches for ‘coronavirus’ on Twitter and Facebook will also direct users to the NHS website.

The NHS is working with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to verify more than 800 accounts that claim to represent NHS organisations, including hospital trusts and local commissioning groups.

Screenshot of a Twitter account claiming to represent a hospital in England
A Twitter account falsely set up in the name of a hospital in England has since
been suspended  Picture: Twitter

Google and the NHS are also set to introduce new ‘knowledge panels’ for Google searches on mobiles. These prominent pop out boxes will provide easy access to NHS information about more than 250 health conditions, including coronavirus.

Peak of the outbreak expected within two weeks

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Ensuring the public has easy access to accurate NHS advice, however they search for it, not only will support people to take the right action but will also help the country’s response to coronavirus.’

He thanked NHS staff, who he said were doing an incredible job caring for patients, and testing and communicating with worried members of the public.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said the start of the UK peak of the coronavirus epidemic is expected within the next fortnight.

As of 9am on 10 March, 373 people in the UK have tested positive for COVID-19, six of which have died.

In other news