WhatsApp launches coronavirus info hub

WhatsApp launches coronavirus info hub, donates $1 million to International Fact-Checking Network

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

Pledging its support to the global fight against the pandemic, WhatsApp on Wednesday announced two initiatives -- launch of 'Coronavirus Information Hub' in partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and UNDP, and a USD 1 million donation to the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).

As coronavirus cases continue to rise globally -- infecting over 1,98,000 people and claiming more than 7,900 lives worldwide -- the messaging platform on Wednesday said WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub at whatsapp.com/coronavirus will provide simple, actionable guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, non-profit entities, local governments and local businesses that rely on WhatsApp to communicate.

The site also offers general tips and resources for users around the world to reduce the spread of rumours and connect with accurate health information, it said.

"While people need to spend time apart, WhatsApp will continue to provide a simple, reliable and secure way for people to communicate," it said.

Besides this, WhatsApp is working with the WHO and UNICEF to provide messaging hotlines for people around the world. These hotlines will provide reliable information and will be listed on the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub.

So far, WhatsApp has worked with a number of national health ministries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide factual information to users via text in countries including Singapore, Israel, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia. As these efforts continue, the hub will be updated with the latest resources, the WhatsApp statement said.

WhatsApp's USD 1 million grant to the IFCN will support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, which spans more than 100 local organisations in nearly 45 countries.

"Over the last year, WhatsApp has worked to bring over a dozen fact-checking organisations directly onto WhatsApp so they can crowd source and report on rumours that may be circulating on various messaging services including WhatsApp or SMS. The grant will support training to use the advanced features within WhatsApp Business, including the WhatsApp Business API," it said.

Expanding the presence of the IFCN, certified fact-checking organisations will help ensure that local communities are aware and responding to potential harmful rumours.

"We know that our users are reaching out on WhatsApp more than ever at this time of crisis, whether it is to friends and loved ones, doctors to patients, or teachers to students. We wanted to provide a simple resource that can help connect people at this time," Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, said in the statement.

Cathcart added, "We are also pleased to be able to partner with the Poynter Institute to help grow the amount of fact-checking organisations on WhatsApp and to support their life-saving work to debunk rumours. We will also continue to work directly with health ministries around the world for them to provide updates right within WhatsApp."

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