It’s hard to tell fact from fiction these days. But Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and WhatsApp are here to help: A new social media chatbot makes it easy to scour the Institute’s database of COVID-19 hoaxes.
Save the number +1 (727) 291-2606 as a contact in your phone, then text the word “hi” to launch IFCN’s free chatbot. Or click this link to get started. You’ll be met with a short numerical menu; simply text a number one through six to navigate the system.
“Message us 24/7 to bust myths and check facts about COVID-19,” the bot said. See the latest verifications, get tips to fight misinformation, find researchers near you, and share the feature with anyone in need of a reality check. The service is currently available only in English; other languages (including Spanish and Hindi) and functionalities are coming soon.
WhatsApp recently provided a grant to support the Poynter Institute’s work to combat COVID-19 misinformation. “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,” Ben Supple, public policy manager and global election lead at WhatsApp, said in a statement.
The UK beat Poynter to the punch, in March launching its own WhatsApp coronavirus chatbot that directs questions about the disease to confirmed government websites. Similarly, users must save the number 0786 006 4422 to their contacts and start the conversation with a simple “hi.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Clara” healthcare bot, meanwhile, assesses symptoms and risk factors for at-risk people.
“Hundreds of millions of users rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and families every day,” according to IFCN director Baybars Orsek. “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.”