WhatsApp is teaming up with the World Health Organisation to counter false information regarding the coronavirus. There are numerous pieces of information that people receive on WhatsApp, especially on groups and they tend to come from a close friend or a family member.
What These False Messages Look Like WhatsApp
All pieces of such false information tend to follow a similar pattern, too. They start with some true information but then combine it with falsehood. These messages often attribute this information or advice to an expert in the given field. In the case of the coronavirus, this expert would be a medical professional.
The Difficulty Of Tracking This Information
Since WhatsApp’s messages have end-to-end encryption, only the sender and the receiver know what they contain. Governments and independent fact-checking organisations are finding it difficult to track this information as a result. WhatsApp themselves do not regulate any of these messages.
World leaders such as Irish Prime Minister Leo Vardakar, have expressed concern about this platform. “I am urging everyone to please stop sharing unverified info on What’s app groups. These messages are scaring and confusing people and causing real damage. Please get your info from official, trusted sources,” he said in a tweet.
Measures To Curb This Issue
WhatsApp works with the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) already to help curb this misinformation. They have established helplines in various countries to which users can send such can send any such message that they come across. This organisation can then verify the claims that are made in these messages.
However, WhatsApp is now joining forces with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to form the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub. They’re all partnering with each other to donate $1 million to the IFCN to help them accomplish this goal.
Achim Steiner, the UNDP’s Administrator had this to say regarding this partnership, “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.”
This initiative should help reduce the spread of falsehoods about this virus. The last thing that the world needs is for people to be misinformed about this disease.