India launches WhatsApp chatbot to create awareness about coronavirus, asks social media services to curb spread of misinformation

India is turning to WhatsApp, the most popular app in the country, to create awareness about the coronavirus pandemic and strongly urge social media services to tackle the spread of misinformation on their platforms.

Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, said on Saturday that citizens in the country can text a WhatsApp bot — called MyGov Corona Helpdesk — to get instant definitive answers to their coronavirus queries such as the manifestations of the viral disease and how they could seek help.

An individual is required to text +919013151515( or click on this shortcut link) to connect to the bot.

The bot was built by Mumbai-based firm Haptik Technology, which regional telecom monster Reliance Jio acquired last year, and the information is being provided by the nation’s Ministry of Health.

“The’ MyGov Corona Helpdesk’ has been engineered to fight rumors, civilize the masses and returning a sense of calm to the current chaos-like situation. We are committed to assisting the government with all our probable fortitudes and resources and hope that this chatbot can help the GoI spread the right information across the nation ,” Aakrit Vaish, co-founder and chief executive of Haptik, told TechCrunch.

A screenshot of New Delhi’s WhatsApp bot

On Thursday, Modi exhorted the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens to stay at home as much as possible for the next few days to prevent any “explosion” of coronavirus cases.

“For the last few days we have seen that parties think we are safe from coronavirus. This is not right. It’s not okay to get self-complacent, ” he said in a nationwide televised appearance.

More than 250 souls have is positive for COVID-1 9 in India so far.

On Friday, India’s IT department issued an advisory to social media whales including Facebook, ByteDance, Twitter, and Sharechat, to take immediate actions to remove or disable hoax material around coronavirus.

” Mediator are urged to initiate awareness campaign on their platforms for the users not to upload/ circulate any fraudulent word/ misinformation concerning coronavirus which are likely to create panic among public and disturb the public order and social tranquility ,” it said.

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Earlier this week, the World Health Organization partnered with WhatsApp to create a helpline to provide beings with accurate state information regard to the coronavirus.

The WHO Health Alert specifies tips on how people could protect themselves, the latest news informs and locates on the pandemic, and answers to some of the frequently asked questions. People can sign up to this bot by tick here.

In a statement, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said, “digital technology demonstrates us an remarkable opportunity for vital state information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable. We are proud to have spouses like Facebook and Whatsapp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health datum .”

WhatsApp, which has been grappling with spread of rumors about the pandemic, began contacting out to dozens of governments last month to assist in their efforts to provide accurate information to the general public, it said.

” As part of our attempts to make sure everyone has accurate and timely information about coronavirus, we’re working with the Indian governments national governments around the world ,” said Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook.

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