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Technology

IFCN launches WhatsApp bot to fight COVID-19 misinformation

May 04, 2020 07:06 PM

NEW DELHI:Poynter Institutes International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) on Monday launched its chatbot on WhatsApp to help two billion users of the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform to check veracity of information related to COVID-19.

The IFCN's bot connects people with independent fact-checkers in more than 70 countries and also with the largest database of debunked falsehoods related to the new coronavirus.

By using the IFCN's bot on WhatsApp, citizens from all over the world will be able to easily check whether a piece of content about COVID-19 has already been rated as false by professional fact-checkers.

Since January, more than 80 fact-checking organisations from 74 countries have identified more than 4, 000 hoaxes related to the novel coronavirus.

All this information now forms the CoronaVirusFacts database and is updated daily by the IFCN so chatbot users can navigate and easily access its content.

The IFCN's bot also provides users with a global directory of fact-checking organisations.

The system is capable of identifying the user's country via the person's mobile country code and then providing them with their closest fact-checking organisations.

The person can then submit a piece of information for review directly to its local fact-checker or visit its website to learn more about what has been circulating in the region.

"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, " Baybars Orsek, IFCN's Director, said in a statement.

"The IFCN chatbot will allow users to search for fact checks and get connected with fact-checkers in their countries from their smartphones. The chatbot will also serve as a way to direct people to their local fact-checkers' websites, " Orsek said.

IFCN's bot is free to use. Users should save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number and text the word ‘hi' to get the bot started.

Initially, the bot will be available only in English, but other languages, including Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese, will follow soon, IFCN said.

WhatsApp recently launched several initiatives in support of the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, one of them being a $1 million grant to IFCN.

"WhatsApp recently provided a grant to Poynter's IFCN to support the valuable work of its verified signatories around the world in combating COVID-19 misinformation, " said Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager & Global Election Lead at WhatsApp.

"We are very pleased to now be able to support IFCN's essential fact-checking work with the launch of this important service for WhatsApp users, " Supple said.

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