Promoting trusted information in response to COVID-19

There is so much COVID-19 commentary circulating online that even those with the keenest eye for misinformation can sometimes find it tricky to separate fact from fiction.

This is why Microsoft, including LinkedIn, along with other technology companies, are working to fight fraud and misinformation related to the pandemic. We’re giving prominence to authoritative content across our platforms and coordinating with government healthcare agencies around the world to share critical updates.

[READ MORE: Data, supplies, community: how Microsoft is supporting efforts to combat COVID-19]

How is Microsoft highlighting content from credible sources?

We’re taking new steps across our services, including Bing, LinkedIn, Microsoft News and Microsoft Advertising, to include curated resources on Microsoft News and LinkedIn that link to official guidance from organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We’re also aggregating data on case locations, infection prevention and more from authoritative sources, and presenting it in an accessible, easy-to-use way across Microsoft News and Bing.

Bing users in multiple countries can access reliable health information through public service announcements for certain COVID-19 queries. They can also find reliable information near the top of search results pages and in sidebar windows. In the U.S. – and soon in other countries – information is provided on testing protocols and locations for anyone who thinks they have symptoms of the virus.

Bing is also prioritizing trusted news sources and piloting algorithmic defenses to help promote reliable information about COVID-19.

On LinkedIn, a global team of more than 65 experienced journalists is curating news and perspectives about the coronavirus pandemic from trusted sources. The team is spotlighting this coverage in a Special Report: Coronavirus section on the LinkedIn homepage, with relevant and accurate stories included; meanwhile, its Daily Rundown news summary reaches 46 million people in 96 countries in nine languages. And when users search for coronavirus-related terms or hashtags, they’ll see trusted information modules at the top of the results page.

How is Microsoft helping to surface credible reporting on the crisis?

Microsoft News has created COVID-19 information hubs in 53 markets across the globe, with an experienced team editing content from more than 4,500 trusted news brands. These hubs also contain links to official tools and information from sources such as WHO and the CDC.

When people search Bing for “coronavirus updates” and related queries, it will point to these hubs in returned news results.

[READ MORE: Microsoft to join White House-led consortium to fight COVID-19;]

What measures is Microsoft taking in relation to advertising?

Microsoft’s Sensitive Advertising policy and LinkedIn’s Ads Policies prohibit ads that capitalize on the pandemic and company pages that improperly sell medical supplies and solutions. These policies allow Microsoft and LinkedIn to remove or limit advertising and company pages in response to a sensitive tragedy, disaster, death or high-profile news event, and are being applied to block ads related directly to COVID-19.

In certain instances, advertising related to the pandemic will only be allowed from trusted sources. Any advertising that exploits the coronavirus crisis for commercial gain, spreads misinformation or might pose a danger to users’ safety is prohibited.

[READ MORE: LinkedIn Offers Free Job Posts to Hospitals, Essential Businesses to Fill Critical Jobs on the Front Lines]

What is the role of the Digital Crimes Unit at Microsoft?

Our Digital Crimes Unit is also analyzing data regarding cyberthreats associated with malware, phishing and fraud, and we have shared 13,549 potentially malicious COVID-themed domains and 1,196 URLs with the proper authorities over the past two weeks so that they can be taken down, and where possible, the individuals behind them prosecuted.

Who else are you working with?

Teams within Microsoft Research are collaborating closely with Professor Jacob Shapiro, director of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University, to characterize the types and extent of mis- and disinformation narratives online related to COVID-19. This helps our researchers, product teams and industry partners understand the global information environment our customers are exposed to.

What else do you plan to do?

We’re working hard to provide additional resources as the situation evolves and will continue to update this article with new details.

For more on Microsoft’s response to COVID-19, visit Microsoft On the Issues. And follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.