whatsapp messenger 2.17.417
A man poses with a smartphone in front of displayed Whatsapp logo in this illustration September 14, 2017 Dado Ruvic/YouTube
WhatsApp chatbot
Screenshot of the WHO's coronavirus WhatsApp chatbot IBTSingapore/Gani Waseem

WhatsApp seems to be taking strict measures against the spread of misinformation related to the ongoing worldwide public health emergency created by the coronavirus. Just a couple of days back, the Facebook-owned messaging service launched a coronavirus information hub in partnership with leading world authorities such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF in a bid to cut down on the spread of false information and hoax messages relating to COVID-19 on its platform.

Now, in its continuous effort to provide the public with accurate and "authoritative" information related to coronavirus, WhatsApp has once again partnered with WHO to create a new WhatsApp chatbot that will respond to public queries about the pandemic straight from the app.

WHO's WhatsApp chatbot is here to answer all your coronavirus related queries

The chatbot announced Friday March 20, lets users of the world's most widely used messaging app learn facts and latest information about COVID-19 at the tap of a button. It allows you to keep track of the current infection rates, advice on how to protect yourself, coronavirus 'mythbusters', latest news and updates and answers all frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the deadly virus that you may have.

How to start using the WhatsApp chatbot service

Getting the new service on your WhatsApp is as easy as tapping the relevant number to get the needed information. But before you do that you need to save the WHO's Health Alert number +41 79 893 1892 on your phone, and simply text "Hi" or the word 'join" to get started. You can also get the WhatsApp bot by clicking this link from your phone and sending "join."

Once done, the service will send you a series of messages in the chat including latest coronavirus-related data, prompts and even some emojis.

You can access COVID-19 information on WHO's website too, but WhatsApp is not a convenient and easy way to access it, especially if you're using a phone. Bear in mind though, WHO's chatbot doesn't respond to natural language or text questions from users, instead you will need to select particular numbers or emojis to get information on a particular topic that corresponds. For example, tapping on the number 1 shows you the latest figures, 2 suggests ways to protect yourself, and option number 4 gives presents you with mythbusters and so on.

Easy and reliable

Since the service is from WHO, you can rest assured about its authenticity and that it is up-to-date. As it is from a single source, and only responds to a single query at a time, you won't be bombarded with an overwhelming information dump.

With more than two billion active monthly users and over five billion downloads on Google Play Store, WhatsApp is the world's largest messaging platform and a social media network in its own right. The messaging service has been criticized for carrying fake news, hoaxes, and information in the past, but it looks like WhatsApp is leaving no stone unturned and is doing everything in its authority to curb the menace of misinformation on its platform.

The new chatbot service is one of a number of ways Facebook and WhatsApp are trying to promote reliable information about the deadly COVID-19 which has so far infected more than 265,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people globally. In addition to launching new services like the coronavirus information hub and now the chatbot, WhatsApp is also deleting fake information and hoaxes about coronavirus on its platform.