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WhatsApp chatbot to make tackling COVID-19 misinformation easier

Initially, the IFCN's bot - which is free to use - will be available only in English, but other languages, including Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese, will follow soon, it added.

May 04, 2020 / 10:41 PM IST

Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) on May 4 launched a WhatsApp chatbot that has been built to address the challenge of misinformation, particularly during COVID-19 pandemic.

By using the IFCN's bot on WhatsApp, citizens from all over the world will be able to easily check whether a piece of content about COVID-19 has already been rated as false by professional fact-checkers, a statement said.

Initially, the IFCN's bot - which is free to use - will be available only in English, but other languages, including Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese, will follow soon, it added.

"Billions of users rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and families every month. Since bad actors use every single platform to disseminate falsehoods, to mislead others during such troubling times, fact-checkers' work is more important than ever," IFCN Director Baybars Orsek said.

The IFCN's bot has been built to address the challenge of misinformation, particularly during COVID-19 pandemic, by connecting people with independent fact-checkers in more than 70 countries and also with the largest database of debunked falsehoods related to the new coronavirus, the statement said.

Since January, more than 80 fact-checking organisations from 74 countries have identified more than 4,000 hoaxes related to novel coronavirus. The information has been compiled in the CoronaVirusFacts database and is updated daily by IFCN, so that chatbot users can navigate and easily access its content.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The system is capable of identifying the user's country via the person's mobile country code and then providing them with their closest fact-checking organisations. The user can then submit a piece of information for review directly to its local fact-checker or visit its website to learn more about what has been circulating in the region.

Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager and Global Election Lead at WhatsApp, said the platform has recently provided a grant to Poynter's IFCN to support the valuable work of its verified signatories around the world in combating COVID-19 misinformation.

"We are very pleased to now be able to support IFCN's essential fact-checking work with the launch of this important service for WhatsApp users. 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," Supple said.
PTI
first published: May 4, 2020 10:41 pm

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