The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the rise of false information. Some platforms such as Snapchat is working together with WHO to combat such misinformation by providing its users with accurate information from the health organisation themselves. This time, WHO is partnering with WhatsApp and Facebook to provide people with the most accurate and up to date information.
With around 1.5 billion active users per month in 2019, partnership with WhatsApp seems like the best platform to disseminate the right information.
All you have to do is click on this link, it will start a new chat on your WhatsApp if you’re on a mobile device. If you are using your laptop, it will either take you to the WhatsApp application if you have it downloaded, or you can choose to open it via WhatsApp web. Once you send a text like “Hi”, a message pops up asking “what would you like to know about coronavirus?”
Alternately, you can add the number +41798931892 to your contacts and send a message to that number on WhatsApp. This will also start a conversation with the WHO bot. WHO also says they will push updates automatically, but you’ll need to add their number as a contact.
The WhatsApp conversation uses a numbered menu interaction. If you pick the first option, it displays the number of cases in the world and the new ones that were reported within the last 24 hours. They do not show the breakdown of the individual countries but that can be accessed here or via a link that’s provided in the chat.
Unfortunately, you can’t ask specific questions to the bot, and you’re limited to the options that have been provided. There are some pre-programmed frequently asked questions which can be revealed by replying with the corresponding number.
There’s even a myth-busters section where it debunks any false claims that may have been circulating at the moment. The bot explains that taking a hot bath does not prevent the coronavirus and it can still be transmitted in areas with hot and humid weather.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) had issued a warning that action will be taken against those that spread fake news about COVID-19. Closer to home, the MCMC has also launched a Telegram channel called Sebenarnya.my that focuses on curbing fake news.