IFCN Press Release: New WhatsApp chatbot unleashes power of worldwide fact-checking organizations to fight COVID-19 misinformation on the platform


  • by: Maarten Schenk
IFCN Press Release: New WhatsApp chatbot unleashes power of worldwide fact-checking organizations to fight COVID-19 misinformation on the platform

Poynter's International Fact-Checking Network led the creation of the chatbot to make its database of more than 4,000 COVID-19 hoaxes easy and accessible to people around the world.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 4, 2020) -- The Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) today launches a chatbot on WhatsApp to connect its millions of users with the translated work of more than 80 fact-checking organizations worldwide. By using the IFCN's chatbot on WhatsApp, citizens can easily check whether content about COVID-19 has already been rated as false by professional fact-checkers.

Since January, fact-checkers from 74 countries have identified more than 4,000 hoaxes related to the novel coronavirus. All of this information is compiled in the CoronaVirusFacts database, the backbone of the new WhatsApp chatbot and the largest collaboration of fact-checkers ever. The database is updated daily by the IFCN so chatbot users can access its most relevant and recent content on their smartphones.

The IFCN's chatbot also provides users with a global directory of fact-checking organizations. The system is capable of identifying the user's country via the mobile country code and then sharing the nearest fact-checking organizations. Anyone can submit information for review directly to local fact-checkers or visit their website to learn more about misinformation circulating in the region.

"Hundreds of millions of users rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and families every day," said IFCN director Baybars Orsek. "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."

IFCN's chatbot is free to use. Users can save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number and text the word "hi" to launch the chatbot. They can also click poy.nu/ifcnbot to get started.

The chatbot has a simple, short and numerical menu. Users will only need to text numbers to navigate it.

Initially, the IFCN's chatbot will be available only in English, but other languages, including Hindi and Spanish, and additional functionalities will follow soon.

"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," said Ben Supple, public policy manager and global election lead at WhatsApp. "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."

The IFCN chatbot was built on the WhatsApp Business API using Turn.io technology, the impact tool for WhatsApp.

Co-founder of Turn.io Gustav Praekelt said, "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 not only fact-check or question information but to play a role in debunking false information."

Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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