Apple and Google are working really hard to control the spread of coronavirus misinformation using apps. According to a CNBC report Apple is rejecting all coronavirus-related apps that aren’t promoted by the government or official health organizations.
Google Playstore has blocked all searches for coronavirus related mobile apps, although we aren’t sure if it’s completely blocking app approvals, as well.
Apple store is manually evaluating apps, with interest in who the developers are and where they got their data. Some independent mobile app developers that use the World Health Organization (WHO) data are also being rejected because they’re not recognized health institutions.
An app developer told CNBC that Apple store rejected its coronavirus-related app, saying that “apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution.”
Spent all day yesterday building a coronavirus app just to get this rejection 🙃 pic.twitter.com/HSJxp0JERS
— Zachary Shakked (@zacharyshakked) March 4, 2020
The exercise has resulted to just a few apps popping up when you search for coronavirus related apps on the Apple Store. The top result is a Brazilian government app about the outbreak, along with a wallpaper app, a Plague Inc-like game, an app from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and a COVID-19 information app published by a medical developer.
If you search for any coronavirus related app on Google Play Store, what you will see is “no results found for ‘coronavirus’,” with the same message on a search for COVID-19.
Google has policies against apps that “lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic events” or “profit from a tragic event with no discernible benefit to the victims.”
Although Google published a website called “Coronavirus: Stay informed,” with a list including apps from the Red Cross, Centres for Disease Control (CDC) news organizations and Twitter(!), that page doesn’t show up in a Play Store search for coronavirus.
Google doesn’t seem to be completely banning independent apps with coronavirus info, CNBC notes. A top Android app called Corona 100m that maps COVID-19 (the diseased caused by the coronavirus) in South Korea is still available, for example.
Technology companies have been fairly proactive about fighting coronavirus misinformation. Facebook and Google are removing false coronavirus content including unrealistic cures, and Facebook is running free WHO ads to counter inaccuracies.
Twitter has also banned coronavirus misinformation and Pinterest created a custom search experience to ensure users get reliable information. However, scams, cures and gouging still loom.
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