The WHO's WhatsApp chatbot.
BI
  • The WHO has launched a WhatsApp chatbot to provide people with info about the coronavirus.
  • It's one of a number of steps Facebook is taking to try and direct users to reliable information about the pandemic.
  • WhatsApp has previously struggled with the spread of misinformation on its encrypted platform.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The World Health Organisation has launched a chatbot to provide people with information about the novel coronavirus as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe.

Announced on Friday, the service lets users of the Facebook-owned messaging app learn more about current infection rates, how to protect themselves, and get answers to frequently asked questions about the disease.

It's one of a number of steps Facebook is taking to try and promote reliable information about COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, that has now infected more than 265,000 people and killed more than 11,000 globally. The Silicon Valley-based tech giant has launched a Coronavirus Information Center that provides info and is prominently placed in its main app, and is deleting dangerous misinformation about the disease.

The WHO's bot is relatively simple, and doesn't respond to natural language or questions from users. Instead, users can send numbers (or emojis) to get more info on corresponding topics - like "mythbusters," "travel advice," or how to donate to aid efforts. (People can access it by following this link on their phones.)

WhatsApp has faced repeated criticism in the past for its role in spreading hoaxes and misinformation. Unlike Facebook's namesake messaging app or its Instagram app, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, meaning Facebook cannot actively moderate content that users send one another on ther service.

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