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How to Tell if a WhatsApp Message is Actually Fake News

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
Journalist. Reach me at Luis@ITNewsAfrica.com

Facebook-owned social media and chat powerhouse WhatsApp continues to take part in the fight against misinformation and Fake News – now, thanks to a new chatbot, users can fact check messages right in the app.

Partnering with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), WhatsApp is allowing users around the world to talk to this chatbot to inform them of the latest facts so that they can decide on how true or false messages sent to them are.

Gadgets Africa says that “the bot is able to easily check whether a piece of news about COVID-19 is true or not”.

This new chatbot service comes soon after WhatsApp began taking several measures to curb the spread of fake news and false information. Just recently, the company announced that limits put in place to reduce the amount of copy-paste chain messages have lessened the spread by 70%.

How to Use IFCN’s Chatbot

The free fact-checking service is dropped into your chats easily enough.

Simply save the number +1 (727) 2912 606 as a contact, start a new chat with the contact and send the chatbot

“Hi” to begin its operations.

Users will now receive a greeting and a menu. The bot throws a message that claims to offer service 24/7 in order to bust myths and check facts about COVID-19. Users are then asked to choose between several options:

  1. Search for fact checks
  2. Latest fact checks
  3. Tips to fight misinformation
  4. Find fact-checkers near me
  5. About us
  6. Privacy

Typing each number will have the bot send you new details and information as per your queries. For instance, typing 1 gets the bot to ask you to send a short sentence related to the fact you want to check. Feedback messages will then be sent back after IFCN checks through its databases to see all relevant claims surrounding the topic.

After sending “1” the bot will tell you to “Type a word or short sentence (in English) related to the fact you want to check, and we’ll send you the top 2 results from our database.”

For example, typing “does 5G cause the coronavirus?” will earn you two links from vetted news sources as well as the bot itself telling you that the claim is false. It’s actually quite incredible.

The phrases have to be short, however, as complicated messages will confuse the bot. IFCN does say that it is trying to expand its databases and improve the service. The chatbot will also only be able to debunk fake news about the coronavirus, so typing “The Earth is flat” will earn you two links about COVID-19 as well.

The bot is currently available only in English with other international languages promised to follow soon.

Edited by Luis Monzon

Follow Luis Monzon on Twitter

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