One is a nurse on sick leave with a nasty cough, who may have to go back to her clinic as soon as Thursday.
One is a designer in Nottingham with a scientific background who has had to avoid seeing his elderly parents.
Another is a police officer in Nebraska who snatches a few minutes during quiet periods while sitting in his squad car with the radio chattering.
三级成人视频One is a stay-at-home mother in Florida who puts the children to bed at 8pm and then has two or three hours to spare for the work.
What connects these four people is that, without much fanfare or public recognition, they are all quietly serving on the front lines of an online information war that could help change the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As hundreds of thousands of people flock to coronavirus-themed Facebook groups seeking updates about the virus, they are the unpaid volunteer moderators who struggle to keep such groups free of dangerous rumours, hoaxes, scams and conspiracy theories.
"I get waves of just feeling completely overwhelmed," says Christy, a 40-year-old registered nurse in Florida who is currently a stay-at-home mother of two. "I have nights where I cry myself to sleep worried about friends and family and former co-workers that I'm still in touch with. And I have to put the phone down, I have to turn the TV off."
三级成人视频Erick Lee, a digital marketing consultant in San Diego, California who runs the network of Facebook groups that Christy helps police, says he is getting about five hours of sleep each night as he struggles to manage the sheer volume of activity.
三级成人视频"It's a thankless job, it really is," he says. "I'm laying in bed before I go to sleep, and I pull out my phone and I try to get all my post approvals out of the way... [then] we'll wake up in the morning and there'll be hundreds of posts waiting for approval and hundreds and hundreds of people waiting to be approved."
三级成人视频The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a word for this deluge of online content: the "infodemic". as a "tsunami of information", including false information, which spreads in advance of the virus itself. The flood is worsened by dedicated conspiracy theorists and financially motivated charlatans, who spread misinformation from inside their own private Facebook groups.
三级成人视频But many users, based across the world from Britain to Germany to Australia to all over the US, are donating their free time to stop this. They are nurses, emergency workers, psychiatric staff and counsellors; stay-at-home parents, search engine experts and community organisers.
三级成人视频They work alongside, though cannot easily communicate with, Facebook's own hard-pressed moderator corps – which sometimes rains down friendly fire upon them.
"What we know about natural disasters and other kinds of crises is that people want to be helpful," says Kate Starbird, a professor of at the University of Washington in Seattle, US who has extensively studied how people use social media to respond to upheavals such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Egyptian uprising.
三级成人视频"That's totally normal crisis behaviour – people that are available who have the right skillsets are going to try to help. Now we see that kind of behaviour happening online.... but there are also people that want to exploit the situation."
'It was like a Wild West saloon'
When a new coronavirus began to spread in the Chinese province of Hubei, Simon Dunn was one of the Britons who took an active interest. As an astrophysics graduate, the 42-year-old, who runs a small design company in Nottingham, was careful to look at the underlying data rather than media reports.
三级成人视频"I just got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach," he says. "The infection rate seemed very high, there was talk of possible asymptomatic transmission... it kind of built up a picture of widespread transmission being inevitable."
As the case count passed 2,000, he began to post factual updates on Facebook for his friends and family, advising them not to panic to keep their immune systems healthy. At first he met only skepticism, but soon his friends reversed course and went "corona crackers". He felt a "duty" to keep posting, and went looking for coronavirus-related Facebook groups that might benefit too.
三级成人视频"Big mistake," he says. "It's a bit like in those Westerns where they open the doors to a saloon and there’s a full-scale bar fight going on – chairs being launched across the room, the pianist ducking glasses. It was theories and counter-theories and little regard for truth." For a while he tried to fight the nonsense, but it became an "overwhelming torrent".
Now Dunn is the moderator of a saner group called "CoronaVirus Watch UK (Facts not Fear and Fiction)". He and its administrator have imposed sweeping "zero tolerance" rules against conspiracy theories, hearsay, unsourced assertions, opinion articles, uninformed health advice, "scoring political points" and petitions. New members are required to agree to the rules before they join.
Dunn is just one of a huge number of people who have sought updates and reassurance in Facebook groups. Some are tiny and private, whereas others are public and very large, with more than 100,000 members.
Erick Lee's network of groups, called , has swelled to more than 66,000 users in less than two months, spread across 26 national and regional groups, including a "positive news" group and anxiety support group.
"It's growing exponentially," says Lee. "When people aren't getting accurate news in the media, they go to Facebook... we have a duty, because we have so many people there, to really stay true to our core function."
Not all groups, however, are so scrupulous.
How groups incubate conspiracy theories
三级成人视频Here is some inside info you won't hear on the news," reads a post shared on Monday by a moderator in the "Stop 5G UK" Facebook group (population: 30,000).
三级成人视频"Lab-created Corona Virus is a cover-up for mass mandatory vaccination agenda, as well a covert US intelligence operation that the world has ever seen," it goes on, predicting that the next celebrities to "claim infection" after Tom Hanks will be Celine Dion, Madonna and Kevin Spacey.
That post, described by the Stop 5G moderator as "interesting", is typical of the material that thrives in some Facebook groups. They are far from the majority, but they suggest danger ahead for one of Facebook's biggest and most cherished plans.
Since early last year, the company's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has promised a grand shift away from public posts and towards more intimate spaces, including closed groups. Observers have called it the "pivot to privacy"; Zuckerberg describes it as a move from the "town square" to the "living room".
三级成人视频Some critics fear that the increased prominence of groups – especially private groups – will make it easier for extremists and hucksters to organise on the service. Facebook will still search for and delete content that is posted inside them, but it could be harder for outside investigators to know what is going on.
三级成人视频At present, it is not difficult to get inside the more bizarre gatherings on Facebook. Some Covid-19 groups appear to be little more than soapboxes for a single user ("THE MASONIC CRIMINALS WILL MISUSE THE FUNDS I AM SURE," wrote one).
Others may simply be opportunistic: a group titled "Coronavirus UK updates" appears to have been rapidly converted from a defunct video gaming group, where members once bought and sold grey-market modifications for games consoles.
When asked about this, the group's administrator first requested proof of credentials, then called the question "ridiculous" and asked for money in exchange for answering, then issued a terse demand not to publish administrators' names.
The more difficult groups are those devoted to pre-existing conspiracy theories and communities such as the anti-vaccination movement or the theory that a non-binding UN action plan called Agenda 21 is a pretext for world domination.
Campaigners against 5G mobile internet seem particularly prone, with many users in both US and UK groups claiming that there is no virus at all and that its victims are suffering from the effects of radiation from mobile phone towers.
三级成人视频Even innocuous groups can become contaminated. Becky Ladley, a marketer in Leeds, found a popular list of unreliable health tips, , percolating through her multiple sclerosis (MS) support group. Some MS medications render people vulnerable to Covid-19, making it a particularly dangerous place for the hoax to appear.
三级成人视频"I was pretty pissed off and frustrated, to be honest," said Ladley. "A lot of the issues with this [virus] have been to do with misinformation leading to panic... I'm pleased that the other people in the group were so quick to correct it."
Facebook's robots go to war
Facebook has acted quickly against this onslaught. Indeed, it has practically declared war on Covid-19, bringing to bear an army of 35,000 content moderators and powerful artificial intelligence (AI) systems, as well as releasing aid money to employees, contractors, outside fact-checkers and small businesses.
"They are stamping out more disinformation than I've ever seen them motivated to do before," says Danah Boyd, a researcher at Microsoft and founder of the non-profit group Data and Society. "We're actually seeing a concerted effort and that should be acknowledged – and extended to other situations."
Part of Facebook's efforts involve balancing the tide of hogwash with reliable news and officially-sanctioned advice. It has given the WHO unlimited free advertising, pushed authoritative material to the top of its search results, and regularly hassles users who search for or join coronavirus groups with educational pop-ups.
"We’re focused on connecting people with accurate information and removing harmful misinformation related to Covid-19, including in groups," said a spokeswoman. "We already reduce the distribution of any groups that repeatedly share false news, and we remove coronavirus-related groups and pages from the recommendations we show people."
Most importantly, the company is taking a harsh line on untrue claims about Covid-19. Historically, it has been reluctant to delete falsehoods from its service outright, arguing that tech companies should not be in the business of deciding what is true and deferring to the judgement of outside fact-checkers. Under this programme, which began in 2017, the company sends potentially deceptive content to third-party experts, and then instructs its algorithms to automatically bury – but not delete – anything that they rate false.
With coronavirus, it has gone further, declaring that much of the misinformation constitutes an imminent physical threat to its users. It has told its moderators to treat fake cures, bogus testing methods and health advice that contradicts official guidance as breaking its rules against violent content – the medical equivalent of inciting terrorism – and to scour it from the service. Its AI, long used to scan for hate speech and images of nudity, are now hunting down any claims that have been branded false by health bodies such as the WHO.
三级成人视频This tougher stance has , who say Facebook could have done all this much earlier for other types of fake news. But Renee DiResta, a disinformation expert at the Stanford Internet Observatory who has long pushed Facebook to treat medical mistruths differently to political spin, is glad for the policy.
"Early on, this was seen as a free expression issue – it wasn't incitement to violence or harassment, so they took a wholly hands-off approach to managing it," she says. "[But] these topics are not a matter of opinion, and they can impact people's lives and communities quite directly and immediately."
Stalkers, scammers and dirty tactics
三级成人视频Despite all this, running a factual coronavirus group can be a full-time job. Many group owners go further than Facebook can, banning entire topics of discussion, such as politics. Often they require all posts to be manually approved by a moderator, which is time-consuming.
三级成人视频"I tell moderators to always ask the question: does this post help and inform the reader?" says Lee. "Panic doesn't help them. Fake news doesn't help them. "Throwing up a meme with some childish humour, that doesn't help them. They're coming here for information. They've got a concern about how to protect themselves, how to get food when food runs out."
To ensure compliance, group owners can set new joiners a series of questions that they must answer before being approved. Conspiracy groups use the same questions to check applicants' bonafides, asking them to explain why they distrust mainstream scientists or how they have been injured by vaccines.
"[It's] a sort of contract that you have to agree to upon entry," says Simon Dunn. "Break that agreement and the ban hammer is swift... we won’t let the group dissolve into some sort of devolved madness like the other groups."
Warning Watch has even created his own crude version of Facebook's AI scanners, setting up automatic alerts whenever someone uses a certain suspicious keyword. Its numerous moderators are all in constant communication via Facebook chat and their own private group, sharing reports, swapping lists of known scammers and keeping an eye out for stalkers who have harassed female moderators.
Yet the scammers are not without their own tricks. Sometimes, upon joining a group, they immediately block every moderator, becoming invisible to Lee and his team but not to other members. To find them, Lee looks for posts with discrepancies in their statistics, produced by comments that he cannot see, and then gives temporary moderator powers to trusted friends who can identify and eject the intruder.
The human cost of fighting an infodemic
三级成人视频At times, the work can be difficult in a deeper way. Christy is a recovering alcoholic who, on top of minding her children, moderating Facebook groups and keeping track of global chaos, must take care not to spiral into a relapse amid the global chaos.
Since she began moderating two weeks ago, her mood has swung between a great eagerness to help her friends and family by "sharing the best information" and a enormous dread and worry.
"I have two little ones that are three and five," she says. "We go outside – in Florida it's been warm out lately – and I will play with them, and that has been the best distraction for me, is to get as present in the moment as I can be. I like to garden. I get out and mess with the plants. And then that fills me up a little bit."
Katrina, a community worker in her fifties living in Florida and a fellow Warning Watch moderator, stresses the need for regular breaks and emotional support. "Sometimes I'll escape from the TV into Facebook," she says. "Sometimes I'll escape Facebook into a movie. Sometimes I'll use the group to both seek support and give support."
三级成人视频Those experiences are eerily similar to the stress and burnout . Scattered across the world, these workers – many of whom are contractors – have been tasked with wading through some of the worst filth that Facebook's 2.5bn users can offer, including graphic pornography and videos of real-world violence.
In the past, some have claimed that the work gave them PTSD, or that they did not get enough breaks and psychological support. Over several years of such reports, Facebook has steadily improved the moderators' conditions and pay.
三级成人视频Support, at least, is not something Warning Watch moderators seem to lack. Christy can rely on her husband, also a nurse, her therapy group and her Alcoholics Anonymous group. "It's been amazing how quickly we have joined forces and put arms round each other, embraced each other," she says.
"We're very supportive of each other. Whenever anyone needs to step out and press the pause button, that's fine. There's no pressure on any of us to stick around."
But Facebook's AI sometimes misfires
三级成人视频As the pandemic intensifies, tech giants' human moderators are ever more strained, and AI is increasingly picking up the slack. On Monday, YouTube said that it would let its AI remove posts automatically, warning that this was less accurate than human review and might mean an increase in wrongful deletions.
Facebook has not unchained its AI – at least not yet. But from last week showed its contract moderators in a state of near-panic because their employers were not letting them work from home, despite promises from Facebook itself. One wrote: “Most people here are sick, coughing, and sneezing. The office ran out of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers, there are no masks or thermometers.”
This week, Facebook stepped in, sending all contract moderators home on full pay, shifting as much work as possible to its own staff. That will mean relying far more on AI, and the company admitted that it "may see some longer response times and make more mistakes as a result".
三级成人视频Lee's encounters with this AI have been a mixed bag. He describes frequent but mysterious interventions in his groups, with posts suddenly disappearing without proper explanation. He has also had to re-verify his identity repeatedly.
"Facebook's been very active in all the groups," he says. "They will just come and take things out and they will not give us any notice whatsoever... if it would show us what it removed we would get an idea of what we're supposed to look out for.
"Because we are really unfamiliar with the full details of their guidelines, it's kind of like walking through a living room where the furniture has been rearranged in the dark and we don't know where the couch is. Through trial and error we kind of have an idea of what will get flagged or not."
On Tuesday, the AI suffered a major glitch. Scores of users found that links to legitimate websites were being wrongly blocked as spam三级成人视频. Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of platform integrity, said it had nothing to do with the human moderators being sent home – but it still caused enormous confusion and chagrin in Covid-19 groups.
Why they fight
If content moderation can be so unpleasant, why does anyone do it – let alone as an unpaid volunteer?
For Kate Starbird, coronavirus groups are a digital solution to an ancient human problem. She describes them as an example "collective sense-making", a positive process in which large numbers of people work together to understand a chaotic situation, potentially reducing their anxiety and providing a sense of catharsis.
These benefits are especially present for moderators. "We know that when people are experiencing crisis events, having a sense of agency in the response leads to better mental health outcomes," she says. "Instead of having just a disaster happen to you and you're a victim of it, you can be an agent...
"So when we see online volunteerism, they're providing a service, but also this is something they can do to mitigate this disaster in their own psyche. In some ways, that moderation isn't a loss; it's a gain for those individuals."
That fits with what Warning Watch moderators say about their own motives. Edmund, a 35-year-old police officer in the US state of Nebraska, describes how he came to see the world as a "very fragile" place after having children. He loves his job and wanted to extend his public service online – to "make sure other people are prepared as best they can for what's coming".
三级成人视频Christy's angle is a little different. "There is the nurse in me is absolutely screaming to help in some way, and I feel like as a nurse at home, my hands are tied," she says. "I can't get a sitter because I don't want anybody in my house right now other than me, my husband and my children.
"I sit on my hands and fight that burning desire to get out there among my coworkers and help. So this is the next best thing for me – to be able to share information that is trustworthy and reliable."
三级成人视频She adds that, although it might sound crazy, whereas some people need to get away from a stressful situation in order to remain calm, she feels calmer the closer she gets. On a group call, that provoked an immediate chorus of agreement from other moderators, including an "amen!"
Careless memes cost lives?
三级成人视频Behind that, though, many Warning Watch moderators share a deep fear of what could happen if they don't act. Those with medical knowledge know all too well that online misinformation has very material consequences in the midst of a pandemic.
Edmund, for example, is alarmed by how little the rush hour traffic in his area has been dwindled. He estimates that 60pc of people "think it's a big joke", and blames social media (as well as the sensationalist traditional media).
"Online is where the largest amount of disinformation is, and people carry that into the real world and keep repeating it," he says. "I hear it at work, I hear it from friends, and luckily for me I've seen most of it come through, so I'm able to tell them 'no, that's completely false'.... [but] that's what I think is hurting the reaction to this virus."
For some moderators the stakes are especially high. Katrina, who has a compromised immune system, says: "I'm doing it for me! Ultimately, it's going to cycle around and everybody's going to get it and it's going to come back to me eventually..."
三级成人视频She lapses into rueful laughter for a moment, then continues: "I say that jokingly. But ultimately, if I'm a part of a community, and that community is at risk, I'm at risk." Later, she reports driving around her community and seeing enormous numbers of restaurants and drive-throughs still open and "carrying on as if nothing is happening".
Barbara Hartman, 48, another Warning Watch moderator from New Jersey, works two nursing jobs – one on a hospital surgical floor and one at a clinic – while also looking after two children on her own. Right now she is off sick with a bad cough, wheezing and a "low-grade" temperature. She also has a history of asthma.
She's not worried about having Covid-19 right now, because she has suffered similar symptoms for years thanks to a different virus. But she is supposed to go back to work on Thursday, and every person that ignores health advice could become a patient who might later infect her.
"We are going to be the ones that are triaging the potential coronavirus patients, and we're going to be harbouring them in our facility," she says. "The emergency room is becoming overburdened. There just aren't enough staff in place... I'm playing it one day at a time. Today I'm better than yesterday."
Are Facebook's tactics working?
三级成人视频It's hard to know whether Facebook is winning its war. It is easy enough to find wild claims if you go looking for them; on the other hand, there are some encouraging signs.
According to NewsWhip, a media intelligence company that , the top 50 coronavirus-related articles over the seven days ending on Tuesday were almost all factual, sober news stories from reputable newspapers or broadcasters. By contrast, previous league tables during US elections were dominated by sensationalism, outrage and outright falsehood.
三级成人视频"The social media platforms are actually doing a good job," said Ben Smith, a New York Times columnist. "US online misinformation about Covid-19 is not nearly as bad as it could have been – so far," agreed Brendan Nyhan, a political science professor at Dartmouth University.
三级成人视频Conspiracy groups are also feeling Facebook's heavy hand upon their shoulders. The Stop 5G UK group, which is public, is full of users complaining that their posts have been debunked by fact-checkers or even deleted, and asks new users to provide an email address "in case of Facebook censorship".
三级成人视频But it's not clear how Facebook's efforts are affecting private groups. The company's AI and moderators can see inside them, but its third-party fact-checkers cannot. A spokeswoman said that sending material from closed groups to outside bodies would impair its users' privacy, noting that anything shared from a group into a private space could still be fact-checked there.
The problem is compounded because so much medical misinformation is transmitted organically between friends – what you might call community spreading. When the Telegraph asked for examples from Facebook users, it was inundated with faulty health advice from all kinds of sources.
三级成人视频Users often don't take note of why a given piece of information appeared in their feed, making it hard to quarantine groups. One posted a viral photo of a whiteboard claiming that "every election year has a disease" under the genuine belief that it had been taken by a friend in a doctor's office. Another saw the Stanford health tips shared by a beauty influencer, though it was later deleted.
三级成人视频. Jim Corr of the Irish folk band The Corrs, who is a noted anti-vaccine activist, was pumping out conspiracy theories – until his page was made private for unknown reasons.
Your country needs you (to log off)
Volunteer moderators' own views of Facebook differ widely. Simon Dunn is furious, saying that misinformation is being allowed to "fester" on the service, creating "social disorder and panic".
He thinks the company should make more of its AI tools available to group administrators, and describes its deletion efforts as "just tip of the iceberg stuff – there’s a whole ocean of toxic information out there that doesn't get picked up".
The Warning Watch crew don't feel that way. They rate the overall health of Facebook's information ecosystem at about a seven out of ten, where ten is perfect, and are more apt to blame national governments for failing to mobilise their populations – as well as users for failing to rise to the crisis and for sharing news without properly checking it first.
"It's our culture," says Barbara Hartman. "We have become a selfish, self-centred, 'don't tell me what to do' culture.... the unwillingness of so many people to take it as seriously as I believe that it is is mind-boggling. How this is going to play out? Are we going to accept responsibility for that or are we going to pooh-pooh it and toss it by the wayside?"
三级成人视频Asked whether they feel they are doing Facebook's dirty work, the four Warning Watch moderators demur. "We're volunteering our time because we have a genuine care and concern for the information that is getting out there," Hartman says. "That's something that we each individually feel compelled to do."
"But, for the record, if Facebook wanted to throw some money at me I'd accept it," adds Edmund, to laughter.
Lee chimes in: "We're way past overtime here, that's for sure."