A new fact-checking service has launched on WhatsApp, allowing people to check if specific claims around coronavirus have been debunked.
The Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) has added a chatbot to the messaging app, which users can ask to show them the latest false claims about Covid-19 which have been rated as false.
Chatbots are artificial intelligence-powered tools which can automatically reply to questions and quickly provide the information requested by a user.
The IFCN chatbot will inform users globally of their local professional fact-checking service and direct them to it, as well as offer guidance on how to fight misinformation.
The UK Government has previously also launched a chatbot offering health information and guidance around the Covid-19 pandemic.
Social media platforms have introduced a number of new features in an attempt to stop the spread of disinformation linked to Covid-19, but remain under scrutiny from governments and organisations globally to do more to prevent such content appearing online.
IFCN director Baybars Orsek said: “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.
“Since January, IFCN’s CoronavirusFacts Alliance has been utilising the capacity of the fact-checking community to help users to sort truth from fiction by debunking falsehoods around the Covid-19 pandemic.
“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.”
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.
“There are now more than 40 IFCN-verified fact-checkers around the world that are using the WhatsApp Business app to debunk coronavirus hoaxes for citizens in their respective countries.”
Anyone can use the IFCN chatbot for free by entering the phone number number +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact on their phone and then sending the word “hi” to it on WhatsApp.