Florida-based Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) has rolled out a Hindi version of its global fact-checking Covid-19 chatbot for WhatsApp. Earlier, IFCN had launched this service in English and Spanish. The bot has been developed to combat misinformation, particularly related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Using the service, anyone can check whether a piece of information about the coronavirus has been classified as false by any of the independent fact-checkers in the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, coordinated by the IFCN.
In India, WhatsApp, which has more than 400 Mn in India, is a more than just a messaging platform for a large Hindi speaking population. It also acts as a source of news and a social media platform for many users. In a bid to help these people check the credibility of the news, IFCN had decided to roll out this service in Hindi as well.
As of now, IFCN has 11 fact-checkers in its India-based team. Around seven of these members publish content in Hindi. The WhatsApp chatbot provides content to users from publishers like Vishvas News, Fact Crescendo, India Today, Newschecker, Boom Fact Check, News Mobile and The Quint. Jagran Group’s fact-checking unit Vishvas News is also coordinating the translation efforts.
IFCN said that the database available in Hindi starts with more than 250 fact-checks and will be updated daily. The Hindi bot will also follow the same structure which is followed by bots busting fake news in English and Spanish.
The organisation claimed that over 80 fact-checking organisations from 74 countries have identified more than 6,600 hoaxes related to the novel coronavirus. It is creating a CoronaVirusFacts database with all the information collected.
IFCN’s director Baybars Orsek said that since bad actors use every single platform to disseminate falsehoods, to mislead others during such troubling times, the job of fact-checking is more important than ever. He also noted that IFCN’s CoronavirusFacts Alliance has been working since January 2020 to debunk falsehoods around Covid-19 pandemic.
For using the bot, WhatsApp users will have to save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact and text the word “नमस्ते” to get started. Users can also visit http://poy.nu/ifcnchatbotHI to check the credibility of news in Hindi. The chatbot has been built on WhatsApp’s Business API and by leveraging the technology offered by Turn.io.
Public policy manager and global election lead at WhatsApp Ben Supple said that WhatsApp has recently provided a grant to Poynter’s IFCN to support their work for combating Covid-19 misinformation. “There are now more than 40 IFCN-verified fact-checkers around the world that are using the WhatsApp Business app to debunk coronavirus hoaxes for citizens in their respective countries,” he added.
How Is India Dealing With Covid-19 Fake News?
In the last two months, as governments across the world are aiming to tackle coronavirus across the globe, fake news has become another matter which needed to be dealt with. Several organisations including the World Health Organization (WHO) are working with social media platforms to stop the spread of fake news and misinformation.
For instance, the Indian government is said to be in constant touch with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others to ensure effective and quick action against any online content spreading misinformation. In March, the government issued an advisory for social media companies to keep an eye on such news.
Meanwhile, the government had launched its own chatbot on WhatsApp. The IT ministry and the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) started a special helpline, MyGov Corona Helpdesk, on WhatsApp to answer people’s queries.
On the other hand, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube are also regulating content and ads on their platforms to put an end to any misinformation being spread on their platform.