WhatsApp, which is used by billions of people across the world, has been one of the major tools of spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. It is perhaps just fitting that the app gets a fact-checking chatbot to verify information regarding the pandemic.
Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) announced the launch of its chatbot on WhatsApp on 5th March 2020. The chatbot will enable WhatsApp users to debunk over 4,000 hoaxes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.
WhatsApp says the chatbot has the aim of addressing the challenge of misinformation, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will do this by connecting people with independent fact-checkers in over 70 countries and also with the largest database of debunked falsehoods related to the new coronavirus.
WhatsApp says by using the chatbox, users of the messaging service can easily check whether a piece of COVID-19 related content has been branded as false by professional fact-checkers.
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Users can engage the chatbot by saving +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact and sending “hi” to it. Alternatively, they can use the chatbot by clicking here without having to save the number as a contact.
The chatbot will identify a user’s location by checking their country code. Then it provides them with information that has been fact-checked by an organisation that is closest to them.
It also shares general information on how to stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak.
Baybars Orsek, IFCN’s director said:
“Hundreds of millions of users rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and families every day. Since bad actors use every single platform to disseminate falsehoods, to mislead others during such troubling times, fact-checkers’ work is more important than ever.”
WhatsApp is trying very hard to clamp down on COVID-19 misinformation. Recently, it introduced a new limit on forwarding messages on its platform.
This has significantly cut down the number of forwarded messages one sees per message on the platform. It also donated $1 million to Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) in March 2020.
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