Stopping the Spread of Misinformation: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School

The company:

In the late spring of 2020, Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Department of Health collaborated to launch a plasma study of COVID-19 patients across the United States, in hopes of learning more about the disease.

The ask:

To recruit participants in the crucial 2-week window after infection, JHU would be running Facebook ads in major markets, with a budget of $1.2 million. It was also critical to ensure that these ads would not turn into a platform to spread misinformation.

The challenge:

COVID-19 is one of the most politically polarizing health issues in modern history. With more than a million dollars of Facebook ads running, this meant ads would be shown to a large and diverse group of people – with a lot of potential for divisive comments and the spread of misinformation.

The solution:

We created two response playbooks:

  1. When to hide comments (i.e., rules about what wasn’t acceptable to have on the page)
  2. Acceptable responses for common responses or questions

The volume of comments was so massive and contentious that we set up shifts for Community Managers to monitor them 24/7.We used a mass listening tool that would enable us to review each and every comment across the 12,331 ads as soon as it came in.

The results:

Our SLA for reviewing and responding to or hiding a comment was less than 15 minutes.

JHU was able to find qualified participants for their study, without contributing to the spread of misinformation or enabling political arguments in their ads.

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