The Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network rolled out a chatbot on WhatsApp Monday to connect the Facebook-owned messaging application’s 2 billion-plus users with over 80 fact-checking organizations worldwide and determine whether content related to Covid-19 has been rated as false.
WhatsApp users can access the bot by saving +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number and texting the word “hi,” or clicking here. The bot will then connect them with independent fact-checkers that are closest to them, based on their country codes.
The IFCN WhatsApp chatbot works off a short numerical menu, meaning that users can navigate simply by texting numbers.
It is currently available in English, with plans to add Hindi and Spanish in the near future.
The IFCN said that since January, fact-checkers from 74 countries have identified over 4,000 coronavirus-related hoaxes, with all of that information compiled in the CoronaVirusFacts database, which is the backbone of the chatbot and updated daily.
The bot also offers a global directory of fact-checking organizations and enables users to submit information to local fact-checkers for review.
WhatsApp public policy manager and global election lead Ben Supple said, “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. 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.”
IFCN director Baybars Orsek added, “Hundreds of millions of users rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and families every day. Since bad actors use every single platform to disseminate falsehoods and to mislead others during such troubling times, fact-checkers’ work is more important than ever.”