The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) has launched a fact checking Covid-19 chatbot on WhatsApp in the Hindi language. The service to combat Covid-19 misinformation and fake news was previously available in English and Spanish. The chatbot, which now aims to cater to readers who communicate in the Hindi language, will help users verify information disseminated about the coronavirus pandemic, in line with IFCN’s independent fact checking partners in India under the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance.
WhatsApp has a massive user base in India, with over 400 million users active on the platform. In a media statement, IFCN stated that about 44 percent of WhatsApp’s users in India understand the Hindi language, thereby underlining the importance of the tool. The Hindi chatbot will offer content from Jagran Group’s fact-checking unit Vishvas News, Fact Crescendo, India Today, Newschecker, Boom Fact Check, News Mobile and The Quint. According to IFCN, the database in Hindi will start with more than 250 fact-checks, which will be updated daily.
“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,” said Baybars Orsek, IFCN’s director, in a statement.
IFCN’s chatbot is free to use for all, and to access it, users will have to send a text saying “Namaste” in Hindi on +1-727-2912606 to get started. Alternatively, they can also click on this link to access it on WhatsApp’s desktop or web apps. The bot has a simple and concise numerical menu, akin to existing verification chatbots on WhatsApp from other authorities, and users will only need to text the menu numbers on the chatbot’s window, to navigate through its various options.