New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Today the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) launches the Hindi version of its global fact-checking COVID-19 chatbot for WhatsApp. The service, which was previously available in English and Spanish, was developed to combat misinformation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows people to easily check whether information about the coronavirus was classified as false by any of the independent fact-checkers in the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, coordinated by the IFCN.

WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India, where around 44% of the population understands the Hindi language. The IFCN therefore decided to translate its WhatsApp chatbot into Hindi to bust fake news around COVID-19.

The IFCN has 11 fact-checking members in India and seven of them publish content in Hindi. Jagran Group’s fact-checking unit, Vishvas News, is one of them and is coordinating the translation efforts. The Hindi chatbot offers content from Vishvas News, Fact Crescendo, India Today, Newschecker, Boom Fact Check, News Mobile and The Quint.

The database available in Hindi starts with more than 250 fact-checks and will be updated daily - following the same structure of the English and the Spanish chatbots.

Since January, more than 80 fact-checking organizations from 74 countries have identified more than 6,600 hoaxes related to the novel coronavirus. All this information now forms the CoronaVirusFacts database.

IFCN's bot is 100% free to use. Users should save +1 (727) 2912606 as a contact number and text the word Namaste (type in Hindi) to get the Hindi bot started. Alternatively, they can click http://poy.nu/ifcnchatbotHI. The bot has a very simple, short, and numerical menu. Users will only need to text numbers to navigate through it.

Baybars Orsek, IFCN's Director, commented: “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.

Since January, IFCN’s CoronavirusFacts Alliance has been utilizing the capacity of the fact-checking community to help users to sort truth from fiction by debunking falsehoods around the COVID-19 pandemic. The new IFCN chatbot in Hindi will allow users to search for fact checks and get connected with fact-checkers from their smartphones. The chatbot will also serve as a way to direct people to their local fact-checkers’ websites.”

Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager & Global Election Lead at WhatsApp, said: “WhatsApp 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.”

It is important to note that the IFCN bot is simply a way to distribute fact-checks to WhatsApp users and to provide access to a searchable database of Coronavirus debunked hoaxes. The verified fact-checkers listed in the IFCN bot directory can only see messages sent directly to them, and cannot see, monitor or delete content on WhatsApp as all messages on WhatsApp are private, and protected with end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that only the sender and the recipient of the message can see the contents of that message and no one else – not even WhatsApp.

The IFCN chatbot has been built on the WhatsApp Business API using Turn.io technology, the impact tool for WhatsApp. Turn helps social impact teams manage and scale personalized support without being overwhelmed. Integrated with the WhatsApp Business API, Turn helps social impact teams have personal, guided conversations that improve lives.

Gustav Praekelt, co-founder of Turn.io, commented: “At best, misinformation can distract from critical health prevention support. At worst, it can lead to behavior that amplifies disease transmission. Because many of the details around COVID-19 are still unknown, it makes the challenge even greater as viral speculation can easily overwhelm the accurate information we do have. Providing this service in collaboration with WhatsApp and IFCN provides an invaluable service to countries, communities and citizens in real-time and at scale - empowering them to not only fact check or question information but to play a role in debunking false information”.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta