In an attempt to curb misinformation, Apple is cracking down on apps related to Coronavirus or COVID-19. From here on, Apple will only take apps from developers who are backed by hospitals or government organisations. The message has been reportedly conveyed to iOS developers by Apple.
"Apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution", one of the developers who has been told about the new Apple guidelines told CNBC.
Google is also cracking down on apps related to Coronavirus in its Play Store. Searching for apps using term "Coronavirus" on Google Play Store returns zero app results. Google has done this to shield Android users from misinformation as well as scammers who may use the opportunity to swindle people.
This move by the tech giants come after reports of rampant misinformation related to Coronavirus on social media. The misinformation not only helps scammers but may also lead to panic.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier in a statement emphasised saying that he was focussed on making sure everyone could access credible and accurate information. He stated that Facebook would remove content which gives importance to conspiracy theories.
We're also focused on stopping hoaxes and harmful misinformation. It's important that everyone has a place to share their experiences and talk about the outbreak, but as our community standards make clear, it's not okay to share something that puts people in danger,'' Zuckerberg said. So we're removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations. We're also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation, for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease
According to reports, Google too has banned ads for anti-Coronavirus products. Twitter, also, announced bans on Coronavirus misinformation. Amazon, too, is currently dealing sternly with misinformation.
While checking misinformation is one part, the move from tech giants also raises the question of fairness as far as app store restrictions are concerned. Google has a set of existing policies against apps that deny the existence of major tragic events, apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or apps that exploit a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death or other tragic events, or towards apps that appear to profit from a tragic event with no discernible benefit to the victims.
Earlier this week, Chinese messaging app, WeChat blocked all keywords relating to Coronavirus and COVID-19. However, this move seemed different compared to what Silicon Valley companies have done so far. The blacklisted keyword combinations on WeChat mainly revolve around discussions of Chinese responses to the endemic, government policies on curbing the outbreak and references to Li Wenliang.
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