WhatsApp on Wednesday announced the launch of a dedicated webpage that it calls the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to highlight how the instant messaging app can be used at the time of the coronavirus outbreak across the globe. Additionally, the Facebook-owned company announced a $1 million (roughly Rs. 7.44 crores) donation to the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to eradicate fake news circulation around the ongoing breakout that has already been recognised by the WHO as a pandemic.
The WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub is said to be designed to provide guidance to various health workers, educators, community leaders, non-profit organisations, local governments, and local businesses that use WhatsApp as their daily communication source. It highlights how people can use the messaging app for group chats as well as voice and video calls to stay connected while maintaining physical distance with their loved ones. The webpage also tells users to think before spreading messages that they receive to limit the circulation of rumours on its platform, which is huge majorly due to the general practice for forwarding messages without verifying their facts.
Additionally, the Coronavirus Information Hub includes general tips and resources to get information on the outbreak and read the latest guidelines set by sources such as the WHO and national health ministries around the world. WhatsApp says are pointers specifically for healthcare professionals, educators, non-profit organisations, local governments, and local businesses to help them stay connected with their peers virtually. Moreover, the webpage offers all the available content in multiple international languages including some popular Indic languages such as Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati among others.
In addition to the dedicated webpage to spread coronavirus-related information, WhatsApp is working with the WHO and UNICEF to provide messaging hotlines to provide information about the epidemic. The company is claimed to have already offered factual information in partnership with national health ministries and NGOs to users via text in countries such as Singapore, Israel, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia.
Separately, WhatsApp announced a $1 million grant that will support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance that spans over 100 local organisations in around 45 countries worldwide.
The grant is aimed to support training for the use of features within WhatsApp Business, including the WhatsApp Business API.
“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,” said Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, in a prepared media statement. “We wanted to provide a simple resource that can help connect people at this time. 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 rumours.”
Last week, WhatsApp parent Facebook announced its commitment to donate $20 million (148.70 crores) to fight COVID-19 disease. The Menlo Park, California-based company partnered with the United Nations Foundation and WHO to start a COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the public.
“Facebook is matching up to $10 million in donations, and 100 percent of funds will directly support the work to prevent, detect and respond to the outbreak around the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said in a post on the social media site on Friday.
Similar to Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft committed $1 million each to the COVID-19 Response Fund. Google.org and Google employees also donated over $1 million to support the relief efforts for the pandemic that has impacted more than 194,000 people and took the lives of over 7,800 individuals globally.
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