With the current Covid-19 pandemic, social media behemoth Facebook has observed a significant increase in usage, especially in countries where the virus hit the hardest.
On its own messaging platforms, WhatsApp and Messenger, both the amount of voice and video calling has increased more than 100%. In Italy alone, since the crisis reached the country, app usage increased by a whopping 70% while Instagram and Facebook Live views stats doubled in just a week.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with the New York Times that the drastic increase in traffic due to the concentration of services in peak times across different time zones poses “a big technical challenge” and that Facebook’s engineers are working hard in ensuring that the strain in the workload is within parameters of support and capacity, especially during surges.
Although there is an increase in the amount of user activity, Facebook’s ads business is unable to keep up. This is mostly because the areas of increased engagement are not the types of services that it monetizes.
Although the platform is built to brave sudden activity spikes during events like the Olympics or various holidays, the nature of these events are infrequent and are scheduled, which largely contrasts the circumstances of the pandemic.
As a way to maintain efficiency and reduce potential network congestion, video content on Facebook and Instagram are having their bit rates reduced in specific regions, as well as closely monitoring usage patterns to prepare for possible complications in a longer timetable.
To support the public health network of frontliners around the globe, Facebook is prioritizing the Coronavirus Information Center feature on the platform to provide a place for the latest news and updates to be visible in the newsfeed. The feature has already been seen in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US, and will make its way to more countries soon.
Meanwhile, a similar feature has also landed in the WhatsApp platform. Dubbed as the ‘World Health Organization’s Health Alert’ or ‘WHO Health Alert’, where any user can simply contact the organization through the hotline +41 79 893 1892 and they will be provided with the latest updates from a reliable source of information, as well as coronavirus myth debunking and more.