WhatsApp and the World Health Organization have 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.
“Digital technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity for vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable. We are proud to have partners like Facebook and WhatsApp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health information,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
Support is currently only available in English, but will soon be available English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish in the coming weeks.
The UK’s Department for International Development [DFID] has announced that it would release the sum of $630,000 H2H Network to help fight fake news about the coronavirus.
The Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian [H2H] had previous success in fighting the Ebola outbreak, and is now being assigned an even bigger task in terms of helping to stop the spread of fake news about the virus.
Africa and South East Asia appear worst hit among regions—and no wonder the DFID is setting aside the aforementioned sum to fight misinformation about the COVID-19 virus.
The DFID will be relying on top influencers on YouTube and Facebook including Bianca Gonzalez a Filipino TV presenter and YouTuber, Bangladeshi doctor Jahangir Kabir, and Indonesian health blog KlikDokter.
“False claims and conspiracy theories have spread rapidly on social media, touting ‘cures’ like drinking bleach or rubbing mustard and garlic into your skin. These pose a serious risk to health and can speed up the spread of the virus, by stopping people taking simple practical, preventative steps like washing their hands,” a statement on the UK government website reads.
Pinterest is also working round the clock to help people get accurate information about the virus. Pinterest launched “custom search results” to help wage war against misinformation about the coronavirus codenamed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.