In a post on Tuesday the 17th of March, social media platform Facebook announced plans to award $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries. This is in a bid to address the economic effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in a post, 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. Sandberg also added that Facebook is also going to make it easier for small businesses to get training and support from its teams.

The financial assistance offered by Facebook to SME’s is expected to come in cash grants. This will enable companies to pay rent in cash, cover operational costs or run advertising on Facebook. Details on how businesses can apply for assistance will be disclosed soon.

Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire around the world, creating an economic imbalance in the western countries and leaving African countries economically vulnerable. This is why Facebook is committing to help people stay safe globally and locally through local partnerships, and updates to its platform.

Facebook will be supporting the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), assisting global health organizations in fundraising, providing dedicated educational pop-ups in partnership with the NCDC, as well as limiting misinformation and harmful content.

Concerning efforts made 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.”

With this new partnership, people will have easy access to accurate information about the COVID-19 and will no longer allow people to search for COVID-19 related AR effects unless they are developed in partnership with a recognized health organization.

Also, Facebook has made available a WhatsApp Fact-Checking Pilot across selected countries including India, Brazil and Nigeria (via AfricaCheck) to improve researcher’s ability to gather misinformation that may be circulating on WhatsApp and respond to users with accurate information.

More so, Facebook will provide ad credits to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the NCDC, to enable them to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook in Nigeria. These campaigns will curb the spread of fake news such as cures or unhealthy prevention methods like drinking substances such as bleach. It will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram while conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove false content.

The fight against COVID-19 has led to financial commitments from various organizations and individuals such as Bloomberg, Twitter, World Bank, Christian Ronaldo, Jack Ma who have offered financial assistance to countries around the world. This will not only help provide testing kits and food supply for countries on lockdown, but also promote economic stability in the fight for survival.

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