WhatsApp launches Coronavirus information hub, donates $1mn to fact-checking network

WhatsApp launches Coronavirus information hub, donates $1mn to fact-checking network
Photo Credit: Reuters
18 Mar, 2020

Does turmeric tea help fight Coronavirus? Is there a door-to-door sanitisation drive? The Covid-19 pandemic has once again brought out keyboard warriors who churn out all sorts of fake information on popular messaging platform, WhatsApp.  

The Facebook-owned multimedia messenger app has long grappled with fake news being pushed on its platform as expert advice. 

It has now launched WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organisation (WHO), and the United Nations Development Programme to curb misinformation. 

The company has also donated $1m to the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to support the global fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.

Recently, WhatsApp reached its two billion user mark. The platform took two years to double its users since it breached the 1 billion user mark in 2018. India, with around 500 million monthly active users is one of the major markets for WhatsApp. 

The WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub will provide simple, actionable guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments and local businesses that rely on WhatsApp to communicate, the company said in a statement.

“We wanted to provide a simple resource that can help connect people at this time. We are also pleased to be able to partner with the Poynter Institute to help grow the amount of fact-checking organizations on WhatsApp and to support their life-saving work to debunk rumors. We will also continue to work directly with health ministries around the world for them to provide updates right within WhatsApp.” Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, said.

The site will offer general tips and resources for users around the world to reduce the spread of rumours and connect with accurate health information.

In addition, the messaging platform is also working with the WHO and UNICEF to provide messaging hotlines for people around the world to use directly. These hotlines will provide reliable information and will be listed on the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub, the company said.

“The International Fact-Checking Network also looks forward to discovering ways to understand the spread of health related hoaxes on WhatsApp in different formats and to make tools available for fact-checkers to detect and debunk misinformation on the messaging app.” Baybars Orsek, Director of IFCN said.

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