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Facebook launches Corona Helpdesk Chatbot to fight misinformation on coronavirus

Facebook has created a Corona Helpdesk Chatbot on its Messenger platform in India to raise awareness, provide authentic and accurate information in order to debunk fake news about coronavirus.

This comes after the Indian government issued an advisory to social media companies to clamp down on the circulation of false information and unverified data on the outbreak, and deployed its own officials to debunk fake news on March 20.

There has been an increase in misinformation and fake news on the coronavirus across platforms since the outbreak was first detected in India.

For example, Reuters reported how two days after testing positive for the virus, an Indian man died in Kolkata. This lead to rowdy crowds fighting with police for hours to stop the man’s cremation, fearing it would spread the coronavirus and endanger lives.

On Facebook, users left abusive messages on the man’s account, accusing him of meeting with his American-based son and his American wife to bring the deadly virus to the city.

This is not the first time Facebook has been accused of being used to spread misinformation. WhatsApp has become a major channel for false reporting and hate speech that has factored into mob violence and murders in India.

Facebook users can start accessing the Corona Helpdesk Chatbot and reach out to the Indian’s Ministry of Health for authentic news, official updates, precautionary measures and emergency helpline numbers through this Chatbot.

The Chatbot has both English and Hindi language capabilities, allowing users to go to the Facebook page on MyGov Corona Hub and then start a chat by typing ‘Get Started’, which will prompt them to either type in a query or choose from a list of frequently asked questions.

Depending on the question, users will receive verified information in the form of a video, infographic or text.

"In these difficult times, people are using our family of apps more than ever to stay connected with friends, family and communities,” said Ajit Mohan, the vice president and managing director of Facebook India.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to support the government across ministries with communications tools and resources to share timely, accurate information on the Corona Virus to keep people safe and informed. We will continue to do everything we can to help the country's efforts."

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