Coronavirus-related hoaxes can now be debunked with a new WhatsApp chatbot

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Credit: Poynter

With more and more myth-busting and fact-checking tools being launched these days, it is becoming increasingly difficult for fake news mongers to continue same way they did in the past. One of such tools—a chatbot was launched on Monday by Poynter Institute; a nonprofit organization that supports journalism.

The bot, per TechCrunch will allow people to debunk over 4,000 disinformation surrounding the pandemic. The new chatbot, which gives you access via Facebook-owned WhatsApp, relies on information provided by over 100 independent fact-checkers in more than 70 countries. Poynter Institute claims that the chatbot has the largest database of debunked falsehoods related to COVID-19. Poynter’s chatbot service is currently only available in English, but efforts are currently being put in place to make it available in Hindi, Portuguese and Spanish.

To test the chatbot, simply save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number and text the word “hi.” You can also click on http://poy.nu/ifcnbot as this option does not require that you save the chatbot’s number to your phonebook.

Credit: Poynter

One unique feature of the bot is that it identifies you by your country by checking your mobile country code. This enables it to provide information peculiar to your country as it concerns the coronavirus. You will also be able to get tips that will help you to fight against the pandemic.

About privacy; the service said it may aggregate and share anonymous results of your queries and other interactions with the research community and program partners. It adds that “your personal information, however, will never be shared.”

Baybars Orsek, IFCN’s Director, said in a statement per TechCrunch that, “Billions of users rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and families every month. 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.”

In March, WhatsApp and the World Health Organization launched a new chatbot to provide the public with latest information about the novel coronavirus. The chatbot among several other things, will dispel rumors and fake news surrounding the virus and its spread.

The chatbot, according to information provided by WhatsApp on its blog, is free to use for everyone. It has been designed to provide answers to questions from members of the public about COVID-19. It will also give prompt, reliable and official information all day, and wherever you are in the world.

To start with, simply add the number +41 79 893 1892 to your phone contacts and then text the word “Hi” in a WhatsApp message to get started. The chatbot has been designed to respond to a series of prompts and will be provided with regular updates about the virus and its spread across the world.


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Author: Ola Ric

Ola Ric is a professional tech writer. He has written and provided tons of published articles for professionals and private individuals. He is also a social commentator and analyst, with relevant experience in the use of social media services.

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