Indian government, WHO join WhatsApp to ‘bust’ novel coronavirus fake news, here’s why it matters

By: |
March 20, 2020 12:26 PM

Both WHO and PIB have joined the instant messaging platform to provide accurate information about the coronavirus pandemic in these difficult times.

fake newsWhatsApp is also aware of how its platform is being used to peddle novel coronavirus fake news. (Photo credit: Reuters)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) have joined WhatsApp in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak in a bid to curb the menace of growing fake news or misinformation that has a tendency to spread like wildfire on the widely used instant messaging platform. While WHO can be reached out at +41-798931892, PIB will be available at +918799711259 on WhatsApp.

“Do forward any whatsapp “news” about #COVID2019 which you suspect is #fakenews to our whatsapp hotline number +918799711259 for busting,” PIB wrote on Twitter. The Indian government’s nodal agency will be also available on email at pibfactcheck@gmail.com.

Both WHO and PIB have joined the instant messaging platform to provide accurate information about the coronavirus pandemic in these difficult times. Even as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world, at a blistering pace, it’s important to stay calm and not panic, and certainly not believe every random thing you receive on WhatsApp – without verification. Misinformation about COVID-19 can be as dangerous as the virus itself. There is no ‘official’ cure for novel coronavirus right now and yet ‘several’ remedies have been found to be circulating on WhatsApp – including homeopathy and drinking hot water.

“This service will provide you with the latest information and guidance from the WHO on the current outbreak of coronavirus disease [Covid-19] that was first reported on 31 December 2019,” WHO said about the new WhatsApp initiative.

WhatsApp is also aware of how its platform is being used to peddle novel coronavirus fake news. But the way the platform has been created, with end-to-end encryption being its sole guiding principle, it becomes tricky to eliminate the origin of such fake news at the source. And before you know, the message has been forwarded to multiple people, so on and so forth – and that’s how things get complicated. This is why it’s advised to share or forward WhatsApp messages, especially sensitive ones, with utmost diligence.

WhatsApp recently partnered with the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub, a dedicated webpage to highlight how the instant messaging app could be used more responsibly in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Coronavirus Information Hub has been designed for health workers, educators, community leaders, non-profit organisations, local governments, and local businesses that use WhatsApp  to effectively tackle the growing menace of fake news or misinformation circulating on the platform while staying connected.

WhatsApp has also committed $1 million to Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to help curb fake news relating to the pandemic on the instant messaging platform.

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