The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc across the world. While there is plenty of information about the disease on the web, social media platforms are also tasked with battling the spread of misinformation. Now popular messaging platform WhatsApp has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a Health Alert service for its users. It will provide accurate health information related to the coronavirus. The service is available for 24 hours a day worldwide and aims at sharing reliable information with the user’s family and friends. It’s a simple process to avail the WHO’s Health Alert on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp users need to save the number +41 79 893 18 92 in their contacts list and then simply text ‘Hi’ on the messaging platform to get started. Another way is to visit this WHO link to join the chatbot if you don’t want to save the number in your address book. The WHO’s chatbot provides information on topics like ‘protect yourself’, ‘mythbusters’ and ‘travel advice’. Users can get information on the topics by typing the relevant number or emoji. It will be updated on a daily basis. The WHO Health Alert is initially available in English but more languages including Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish will be supported in the coming weeks.
Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, “Digital technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity for vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable. We are proud to have partners like Facebook and WhatsApp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health information.”
Earlier this week, WhatsApp launched the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with WHO, UNICEF and UNDP. It offers simple, general tips and resources for users to reduce the spread of rumours and share accurate health information.
WhatsApp has repeatedly struggled with the spread of misinformation and with a current global pandemic, fake information has already been circulated on the messaging platform. The WHO’s chatbot is a step in the right direction to send real-time and accurate information.