WhatsApp detailed two initiatives Wednesday aimed at helping its users cope with the coronavirus pandemic: the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub, and a $1 million donation to the Poynter Institute‘s International Fact-Checking Network.
The goal is to provide simple, actionable guidance for people who rely on the Facebook-owned messaging application to communicate—health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments and local businesses—as well as to share accurate health information and reduce the spread of rumors.
WhatsApp is also working with the WHO and UNICEF to provide messaging hotlines for people around the world to use directly, which will provide reliable information and be listed on the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub.
And it has collaborated with several national health ministries and nongovernmental organizations to provide factual information to users via text messages in countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Israel and South Africa, with more to be added and the hub to be updated as needed.
Head of WhatsApp Will Cathcart said in an emailed statement, “We know that our users are reaching out on WhatsApp more than ever at this time of crisis, whether it’s to friends and loved ones, doctors to patients, or teachers to students. We wanted to provide a simple resource that can help connect people at this time.”
UNDP administrator Achim Steiner added, “Getting up-to-date information about Covid-19 to local communities around the world is a critical piece of the international community’s efforts to stem the spread of the virus. Partnerships with private-sector companies like WhatsApp will help get this vital, real time information from the World Health Organization and local health officials to billions of users around the globe.”
WhatsApp’s grant to the IFCN is separate from a similar move by parent company Facebook that was revealed Tuesday.
The $1 million will be used to support training on the advanced features within WhatsApp Business, including the WhatsApp Business API (application-programming interface), in order to help expand the presence of IFCN-certified fact-checking organizations on the messaging app’s platform.
Cathcart said, “We are also pleased to be able to partner with the Poynter Institute to help grow the amount of fact-checking organizations on WhatsApp and to support their life saving work to debunk rumors. We will also continue to work directly with health ministries around the world for them to provide updates right within WhatsApp.”
IFCN director Baybars Orsek added, “The timely donation from WhatsApp will help the fact-checks published by the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance to reach wider audiences and, in consequence, help people sort facts from fiction during this avalanche of information that the WHO called an ‘infodemic.’ The International Fact-Checking Network also looks forward to discovering ways to understand the spread of health-related hoaxes on WhatsApp in different formats and to make tools available for fact-checkers to detect and debunk misinformation on the messaging app.”