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World Health Organization launches a coronavirus WhatsApp service

This is to fight misinformation that has been spreading like wildfire on social media, mostly on WhatsApp.

Image: Screenshot

THE WORLD HEALTH Organization has partnered with WhatsApp to offer people a direct messaging service about the coronavirus pandemic.

To sign up to the service, click on this link, which will bring you to WhatsApp.

To trigger a conversation, you type ‘hi’ and an automated menu will appear that will give you an option of topics to request the latest official information from the WHO.

This menu includes the latest figures on cases, advice on how to protect yourself, frequently asked questions, mythbusters, travel advice, news and press, and a donate button.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO said on Twitter: “I am proud to announce that today we launched a new WHO Health Alert messaging service via WhatsApp.

This service will provide the latest news & information on Covid-19, including details on symptoms and how to protect yourself.

WhatsApp said on Twitter said that “it’s an honour to work with WHO to provide this simple service to get the latest information directly from the experts right on WhatsApp”.

“Share these tips and de-bunked rumours with your friends and family,” it said.

There have been a number of false rumours and misinformation spread amid the coronavirus pandemic, many of which spread on the messaging service WhatsApp.

In Ireland, the rumours varied from a ‘Status Red’ military lockdown was to be imposed last week, fake and dangerous messages which claim to prevent or cure the new virus, and messages that claim to be from healthcare professionals or hospitals.

TheJournal.ie has been debunking and FactChecking these messages, the results of which you can find here.

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Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie 

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STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages are from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.


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