Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently announced a US$100 million [AU$172 million] grant program to eligible small businesses and other initiatives to alleviate the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. 

In a blog post published on March 17, Facebook promised financial support to affected small-scale businesses all around the globe, as different countries try to contain coronavirus from spreading. 

Facebook offers financial assistance to 30,000 small business

Facebook, the largest social media platform worldwide, has rolled out $100 million cash grants and ad credits to business owners strained by the pandemic. The aid will cover 30,000 qualified small businesses in more than 30 countries. 

“We believe in focusing on empowering individuals and small businesses” Zuckerberg stated in his conference call last March 18. “It’s not just going to be a health crisis. It is going to be a major economic shock,” he continued. 

Facebook said the money could be used for operational costs, marketing initiatives, and other miscellaneous expenses needed to alleviate the damage caused by the pandemic.

Facebook will start accepting applications in the coming weeks. 

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Facebook partners with CDC, WHO to fight misinformation

Zuckerberg has also announced their plan to partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a response to combat misinformation concerning COVID-19. 

According to his statement, Facebook is opening a “Coronavirus Information Center” as a way to prioritize “authoritative information” over others. Essentially, it will place the CDC and WHO verified data and news at the top of people’s Facebook newsfeeds.

The social media platform also partnered with national and local governments to ensure its implementation in countries like the United States, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. 

“In a time of a disaster, or when people can’t be together with their friends or family, people rely on social and communication services,” Zuckerberg shared during his call.

The virtual information center will also provide factual data, guidelines, and best practices to stop the virus from spreading. He also added that social distancing will be given more emphasis to encourage people to take the measure seriously. 

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WhatsApp and Workplace as information centers for health workers

Part of Facebook’s initiatives is to create an “information hub” on WhatsApp as well. The hub is said to cater health workers, small business owners, and educators to help in promoting reliable ideas and practices on how to contain coronavirus.

Today @WhatsApp has launched a hub for health workers, educators, small businesses, and others that are using WhatsApp to support one another during this extraordinary crisis. You can check it out here https://t.co/ziwqtvbqXP

— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) March 18, 2020

Facebook has also donated $1 million to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to “expand the presence of local fact-checkers” on the messaging platform.

Additionally, Facebook will also open its virtual workplace communication platform Workplace to government agencies and emergency services for free for the next 12 months.

Zuckerberg believes the application could help governments as well as emergency services in providing stable communication and organizing work duties.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr / Billionaires Success

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