WHO taps WhatsApp to share accurate COVID-19 info via new chatbot

WhatsApp has become a hive of misinformation related to the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 disease it causes, and the state of outbreaks around the world. The World Health Organization is combating this fake news by launching its own chatbot called WHO Health Alert to spread accurate, timely information. The chatbot will provide direct information on the latest case numbers, myths related to the disease, and more.

The WHO Health Alert chatbot works the same way as other chatbots. Users can start a conversation with it by saying "hello," which will trigger the chatbot to send a message back with options for additional conversations like "Mythbusters," "Travel advice," "News & Press," "Protect yourself," and "Latest numbers." Each of these categories is exactly what they sound like.

Users can reply with the number or emoji related to each of those categories in order to get the related information, such as currently confirmed case numbers and news related to the pandemic. The chatbot service is free to use, of course, and it is available 24/7 within WhatsApp.

WHO's chatbot is likewise available globally, but to access it, you'll have to add the following number to your phone contacts (and send an introductory 'Hi' or 'Hello' message to it): +41 79 893 1892. The chatbot service will be updated on a daily basis, according to the health organization, and is launching with support for six languages: English, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, French, and Spanish.

In a statement on the new service, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

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.