Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

How to use WhatsApp’s new coronavirus fact-checking chatbot

WhatsApp has become a hotbed of false information regarding the coronavirus, but a new chatbot tied to fact-checkers is hoping to combat that. 

Last month, after conspiracy theories, rumors, hoaxes, and false cures about the coronavirus proliferated on the platform, the Facebook-owned messaging app introduced limits on forwards for its more than 2 billion users. Anything shared more than five times could only be sent to a single participant or group at a time after that point. 

Now, a chatbot tied to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism research organization, is looking to debunk misinformation more proactively. Here’s how the WhatsApp fact-checking chatbot can help clear up misinformation about the coronavirus.

Why wouldn’t I just Google my coronavirus questions?

Anyone can Google a rumor or theory about coronavirus and get a million hits, but sifting through what is and isn’t true or requires time, energy, and expertise. 

The chatbot launched by Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) connects users to the vetted work andcontact information of more than 80 fact-checking organizations in 74 countries. These checkers have been working since the beginning of the year and have already debunked nearly 4,000 hoaxes and claims. 

Poynter’s database includes information correcting false assumptions about the many scam miracle “cures” for the virus, along with false conspiracy theories linking 5G to COVID-19 or those that say the virus was created in a Chinese lab and released intentionally. It is updated daily and free to access. 

WhatsApp uses your phone number’s country code to also direct you to local listings of fact-checkers. People can reach out to these organizations to submit new claims for verification or just search the existing database. 

How to use WhatsApp’s new coronavirus fact-checking chatbot

Save the number +1 727 291 2606 to your phone. In WhatsApp, message the number “Hello.”  

An automatic message will pop up that reads: “Message us 24/7 to bust myths and check facts about COVID-19,  ” followed by a pretty simple numbered menu. 

The chatbot allows you to search the database of fact-checked items right there on the messaging platform. For instance, if you type in “garlic,” the chatbot sends you information that says the claim that garlic can help cure coronavirus is “misleading” and “false,” and also shows you which organization investigated the claim.

Can I get this in my language? 

The chatbot is only available in English for now, but will soon launch in Spanish and Hindi, thanks to a grant from WhatApp. The problem of misinformation was particularly rampant among users with Indian phone numbers. The company and Poynter have not yet said if the service will be launched in additional languages. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mythili Sampathkumar
Mythili is a freelance journalist based in New York. When not reporting about politics, foreign policy, entertainment, and…
WhatsApp adds new privacy features that everyone should start using
The WhatsApp app icon on a phone with other messaging apps.

You'll soon be able to lurk and leave groups quietly on WhatsApp. Three new features have been announced for Meta's messaging app, and they all seem to be about helping users protect their privacy.

On Tuesday, WhatsApp announced three new privacy features: leaving groups silently, deciding who gets to see if you're online, and screenshot blocking.

Read more
WhatsApp just upgraded its emoji reactions and I want them now
Close up of WhatsApp icon as seen on a smartphone display. Credits: WhatsApp official.

WhatsApp will now allow users to react to messages with any emoji, in an expansion of its reaction feature that came out last year. It's coming to iOS and Android over the coming weeks, and it brings more personalization to one of the world's most used messaging apps.

Once you get the update, the emoji reactions will work as they do now, with a long press bringing up the basic six options with the incision of a new plus button. Pressing that plus icon will show you the new expanded set of emojis, and you'll be able to add whatever emoji you want. This includes skin tone variations, family types, and more.

Read more
WhatsApp now lets you control who can see your profile
The WhatsApp app icon on a phone with other messaging apps.

WhatsApp is now letting you decide who gets to view certain aspects of your profile.

This week, Meta's popular messaging and calling app announced via a tweet that it is offering new privacy options for its users, including the ability to choose "who from your contact list can see your Profile Photo, About, and Last Seen status."

Read more