‘Say Hello’-WHO Creates WhatsApp Chatbot to Fight Misinformation Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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POLAND – 2020/03/19: In this photo illustration a WhatsApp logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a World map of COVID 19 epidemic on the background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Over the last few weeks, Governments and health agencies have not only had to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) but are also confronted with another major problem – misinformation about the virus on social media.

One of the world’s most personalised instant messaging platforms, WhatsApp, has, in fact, become a brewing ground for several inaccurate information. WhatsApp has a notorious history for misinformation.

https://twitter.com/asUpergrl/status/1242310112049426432

From dangerous health advice and panic figures to conspiracy theories, lots of misinformation have been flying around on WhatsApp. They come in form of voice notes, videos and broadcast messages, causing many twists and turns about the virus which has infected about 390,000 globally and led to the death of over 16,000.

Many of these messages come with the tagline “Spread this information because you could save someone,” urging more users to do their part by sharing to other persons or groups.

https://twitter.com/Rutayisire_/status/1241653338858536961

As expected, there have been calls for people to stop sharing these unverified claims which cause panic via the app.

Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is taking things a step further. The organization has turned to the same WhatsApp platform to launch a new chatbot for solving user queries.

The WHO WhatsApp chatbot will provide the latest available information globally when a user asks anything related to coronavirus. This includes how to protect themselves, travel advice, real-time numbers, and other FAQs.

All users need to do to access the bot and receive latest COVID-19 updates from WHO is to add the number, +41798931892, to their contacts and send a WhatsApp message. Or simply click this link and send Hi.

WHO Creates WhatsApp Chatbot to Fight Misinformation Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The WhatsApp Chatbot

This measure corroborates the efforts of other big tech companies in their bid to push verified information during the coronavirus pandemic. Platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter have put in place measures that ensure that the best information appears first when coronavirus queries are searched.

Online users in Nigeria are also encouraged to follow the necessary agencies on Twitter, like the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (@NCDCgov) to get real-time accurate information.


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