Saturday, February 24Inside Business Africa

Facebook to award $100m in grants, ad credits to SMEs against COVID-19

Social media platform, Facebook Inc said it plans to award $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries to address the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The majority will be in cash grants and Facebook will disclose more details soon about how businesses will be able to apply for assistance.

According to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in a post yesterday, said the economic disruption poses a severe risk to small businesses. “We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them. We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work,” Sandberg said, adding that Facebook is also going to make it easier for small businesses to get training and support from its teams.

Facebook said companies would be able use cash to pay rent, cover operational costs or run advertising on Facebook.

Meanwhile, as the virus spread more and number of infected people continues to rise, in a number of countries across Africa, including in Nigeria, Facebook has renewed its commitment in helping to keep people safe and informed globally, and locally through local partnerships, and updates to its platform.

Some of the measures include supporting the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC); supporting global health organisations in fundraising; providing dedicated educational pop-ups in partnership with the NCDC; limiting misinformation and harmful content; removing harmful health misinformation.

On Instagram, Facebook said it moved WHO and other authoritative sources to top of Search, so people can easily find the most accurate information. The firm said it will no longer allow people to search for COVID-19 related AR effects, unless they are developed in partnership with a recognized health organization.

According to the social media platform, there is also a WhatsApp Fact Checking Pilot. Facebook said it will continue to run several WhatsApp fact checking pilots across selected countries including India, Brazil and Nigeria (via AfricaCheck) to improve researchers ability to gather misinformation that may be circulating on WhatsApp and respond to users with accurate information.

The US firm explained that it continued to partner with organizations like health agencies and NGOs who are actively using its platforms to share accurate information about the situation, including on Pages. To help bolster and extend these efforts, the company is also providing ad credits to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the NCDC, to enable them to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook in Nigeria.

In removing harmful health misinformation, Facebook said: “We will also start to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them. We are doing this as an extension of our existing policies to remove content that could cause physical harm.”

We’re focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions. This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available. We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can.”

The platform said its global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work in reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus. In Nigeria this includes AFP and AfricaCheck, with the latter supporting local languages including Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.

Commenting on these specific efforts in Nigeria, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for Anglophone West Africa, Adaora Ikenze, said: “We are committed to partnering with governments, technology companies, and civil society to respond to the immense challenges presented at this time, this is an ever evolving situation, where we will continue to support the relevant bodies, both locally and globally. We also encourage all users to check the facts via official public health agencies before sharing messages that have been forwarded to them, and to engage directly with trusted and official sources for important information.”

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