Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, launches today its chatbot on WhatsApp. The IFCN's bot has been built to address the challenge of misinformation, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, by connecting 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 organizations 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 organizations. 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 organizations. 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.
IFCN's bot is 100% free to use. Users should save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number and text the word ‘hi’ to get the bot started. Alternatively, they can click http://poy.nu/ifcnbot.
The bot has a very simple, short, and numerical menu. Users will only need to text numbers to navigate through it.
Initially, the IFCN's bot will be available only in English, but other languages, including Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese, will follow soon.
Baybars Orsek, IFCN's Director, commented: “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 utilizing 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.”
Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager & Global Election Lead at WhatsApp, 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.”
It is important to note that the IFCN bot is simply a way to distribute fact-checks to WhatsApp users and to provide access to a searchable database of Coronavirus debunked hoaxes. The verified fact-checkers listed in the IFCN bot directory can only see messages sent directly to them, and cannot see, monitor or delete content on WhatsApp as all messages on WhatsApp are private, and protected with end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that only the sender and the recipient of the message can see the contents of that message and no one else – not even WhatsApp.
The IFCN chatbot has been built on the WhatsApp Business API using Turn.io technology, the impact tool for WhatsApp. Turn helps social impact teams manage and scale personalized support without being overwhelmed. Integrated with the WhatsApp Business API, Turn helps social impact teams have personal, guided conversations that improve lives.
Gustav Praekelt, co-founder of Turn.io, commented: “At best, misinformation can distract from critical health prevention support. At worst, it can lead to behavior that amplifies disease transmission. Because many of the details around COVID-19 are still unknown, it makes the challenge even greater as viral speculation can easily overwhelm the accurate information we do have. Providing this service in collaboration with WhatsApp and IFCN provides an invaluable service to countries, communities and citizens in real-time and at scale - empowering them to no