Facebook boosted efforts to improve communication related to Covid-19 (coronavirus), providing free Messenger developer resources for governments and launching a competition to add features covering social distancing and misinformation.

The social media company launched a global programme to connect government and UN health organisations with developers to “help them use Messenger most effectively to share timely and accurate information, and speed up their responses to concerned citizens”.

Facebook added the free developer services will help in areas including automated responses for frequently asked questions and giving insights for sharing updates effectively.

Argentina’s Ministry of Health is said to be among the pioneers in upping provision of information over Messenger, today (23 March) launching a communication service to answer questions related to the pandemic at any time.

Facebook also unveiled a partnership with hackathon platform Devpost to encourage developers to build messaging features which address issues including social distancing and providing trusted information.

Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger, said participants will be encouraged to develop global and local features, and will receive access to Messenger-related content. They will also be mentored by the company’s engineers to turn their products into reality.

In a Twitter post, Facebook’s EMEA communications manager for engineering, Alexandru Voica, said the company is targeting misinformation about Covid-19 on its platform by “exploring more options like testing stricter limits for how many chats you can forward a message to at one time”. He added the feature was in a development phase and not being tested externally yet.

Facebook’s move comes shortly after its WhatsApp unit announced a partnership with the World Health Organisation to launch a specific service providing information about the outbreak.