Since the Covid19 arrived in Europe and the alarm state was officially declared in several countries, there have been several initiatives to combat the fake news and avoid a feeling of panic.
First infographics on how the virus was spread out and tips to not get infected were released in newspapers, blogs and government websites raising awareness and claiming a civic duty.
Numbers were increasing as well as fake news on how to prevent the infection or the syntomps. Below, I’ve gathered 5 good examples of how official institutions have used messaging apps such as WhatsApp to combat fake news and bring information closer to citizens:
1. World Health Organization
The current chatbot, available in English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Italian and Portuguese shares information not only on the latest numbers or protection, but also facts to combat ‘Mythbusters’.
By typing numbers associated with several topics, you can get further information from official sources:
From the Frequently & Asked questions, there is some important information on what are coronaviruses, how these affect humans/animals or if it’s mandatory to wear a mask:
For more information on updated data by the WHO you can go to this dashboard and click on any country to see the number of confirmed cases, deaths and the daily change:
If you wish to interact with this bot, add +41 79 893 1892 to your contacts and then type ‘Hello’ (without quotation markets).
2. Spanish Government
Last Wednesday, the Spanish Government launched a chatbot on WhatsApp that replicates most of the information from the WHO bot.
Hoy ponemos en marcha Hispabot-Covid19, un canal de consulta a través de WhatsApp basado en inteligencia artificial. Cualquier ciudadano puede ver resueltas dudas básicas sobre el #COVID19 con información oficial y de confianza. #EsteVirusLoParamosUnidos https://t.co/uDoFZMNuea
— Asuntos Económicos y Transformación Digital (@_minecogob) April 8, 2020
This bot, apart from main Frequently Asked Questions or official releases, it also contains a section to combat fake news and stay at home tips:
Its main difference is that users don’t need to type ‘commands’ (or numbers in the case of WhatsApp bots) but they also type any question they would like more information on – and in most of the cases it works!
If you wish to talk to this bot add +34 600 802 802 to your contacts and type ‘Hola’ to start the conversation.
3. Catalan Government
Yesterday the Department of the Vice-Presidency, Economy and Finance, and Health launched a WhatsApp bot that aims to combat the disinformation by providing accurate numbers and other FAQs.
Similar to the WHO chatbot, this bot also provides information on diagnosis, how to protect, etc. In addition to that, they also cover other interesting points such as how to help, gender violence or fake news.
For this latest one, this bot provides some tips such as double-checking the source, the information provided and avoid the retweet effect that hasn’t been contrasted. For more information, they have been gathering frauds or phishing that have happened since the COVID19 on this page.
If you wish to talk to this bot, add +34 681 012 012 to your contacts and type ‘Hola’.
4. UK’s Government Chatbot
Three weeks ago, the UK’s Government launched a chatbot for its citizens replicating the OMS model.
For 24 hours, the bot stopped working and it was re-launched the following day advising all users that had initiated the conversation that could go back and talk to it.
This bot doesn’t provide different information than the OMS one and doesn’t allow to look for local regulations, a feature that could be very useful for a person that is looking for things to do / don’ts in their neighborhood.
Even if the bot is not able to understand the natural language, it advises that this is an automated service and that there is no person behind to handle a personalised conversation: This automated service is unable to respond to specific questions and any messages you send will not be read by a person.
If you want to talk to the bot please add +44 7860 064 422 and type ‘hello’.
5. The helpdesk’s bot from the Indian Government
Corona Helpdesk is the chatbot that the Indian Government released three weeks ago for all its citizens in English and Hindi.
Like all the other chatbots, its mission is to raise awareness and verify the information that is been shared on social media.
On a positive note, this chatbot has images, infographics and hyperlinks to the Youtube where experts are sharing, graphically, how to wear a mask or protect themselves from misinformation:
To help citizens to strengths their mental and physical health, the bot also shares links to Yoga sessions and tips for staying at home.
The most characteristic feature of this bot, though, is that it replicates a master-bot structure: it has several links to bots more specifics depending on the state where you live.
Once the user clicks on these, a new chat is opened (either on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger) and local information is displayed:
If you want to talk to this bot add +91 901 315 1515 to your contact list and type ‘Hi’.
A bit about chatbots…
Since the rise of bots in 2016, companies are exploring this new channel to interact with their consumers in their preferred messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram or Twitter.
Which are its benefits? Amongst others we have the below:
- Available to consumers 24/7
- No need to install a new app – messaging apps are already installed
- Can handle multiple and personalised conversations at a time
- Automates content such as FAQs, products or human advice
- Uses natural language to chat with us thanks to machine learning techniques such as Natural Language Processing or Natural Language Understanding
These messaging apps drive the way information is been displayed – Facebook has its own templates, Twitter has its character limitations and WhatsApp has just learned from Facebook and its starting very carefully. Some of their rules are below:
- You can only publish on their channel through an official provider
- The bot use case needs to be tight to a handover to an agent. The bot can automate most of the content, but it needs to leave an open window to contact a human for further information – it’s there where WhatsApp monetises these bots: after 24h of the last interaction with the consumer, you need to pay to reach them proactively.
- No carousels, images, videos, GIFs, etc as we have on Facebook. Fewer media, more straightforward information.
More examples? Let me know in the comments or at @mcrosasb!