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Facebook is encouraging everybody to take social distancing seriously

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in a ‘Conversation on Free Expression” in Washington, DC on October 17, 2019.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday announced that the company will roll out a coronavirus information center that will show up at the top of every users’ news feed and encourages them to pay attention to social distancing recommendations.

“The broad consensus is that the biggest role we can help play is encouraging people to take the social distancing orders seriously,” Zuckerberg said. 

Facebook’s coronavirus information center has been built in collaboration with health partners, Zuckerberg said. It will roll out to users in the U.S. and Europe over the next 24 hours and globally over the following days.

“The goal here is to put authoritative information from organizations like the GDC and WHO in front of everyone who uses our services,” he said. 

The company also announced that it will make Workplace, its enterprise communications software, available for free to governments and emergency service organizations for the next 12 months. 

“We want to make sure we’re doing what we can to help support the public health response,” Zuckerberg said. “Some of the work that these folks are doing is absolute heroic, and I’m personally very grateful for what they’re doing.”

Zuckerberg said that the coronavirus pandemic has lead to “very elevated levels of use in all countries that have been affected” across its services. Specifically, use of the voice calling feature in the WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger services is up more than double over what it normally is, Zuckerberg said. Facebook is working to make sure that its infrastructure can support this continuing rise in usage as the coronavirus spreads to more areas, he said. 

“We really need to make sure we’re on top of this from an infrastructure perspective to make sure things don’t melt down and we can continue to provide the level of service that people need,” Zuckerberg said. 

The coronavirus has already had a massive impact on the company. Facebook shares are down more than 33% this year as uncertainties around coronavirus drag down the markets. The S&P 500 has fallen 22%. 

Facebook this week said it would roll out a $100 million program to support small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. It also announced a $1,000 bonus for each of its nearly 45,000 full-time employees

On Feb. 27, Facebook canceled its F8 annual software developers conference. In early March, the company began telling its employees to work from home and pulled out of other conferences. Earlier this month, Facebook temporarily banned ads and listings for medical face masks.

Around the world, there are more than 201,000 cases of the coronavirus with at least 8,007, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., there are at least 6,496 cases, with at least 114 deaths.

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