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WhatsApp is partnering with the World Health Organization to fight back against the spread of fake news regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

The popular messaging platform, which has been used to spread disinformation in the past, has established a new Coronavirus Information Hub that went live yesterday. The hub is designed to help users stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic while also providing them with a reliable source of information.

On the hub’s web page, WhatsApp has asked users to “share information responsibly” and to think twice about the messages they are sending and receiving. 

WhatsApp states: “Think about the messages that you receive, because not everything you are sent about coronavirus may be accurate. Verify the facts with other trusted official sources or fact checkers. If you aren’t sure something’s true, don’t forward it.”

Along with advice on communicating responsibly during a global health crisis, the hub features links to verified stories regarding the coronavirus and featuring WhatsApp. One such story describes how residents of a retirement home in the Marche region of Italy are using the messaging platform to stay in touch with each other and with their families during the national lockdown. 

The new information hub has been created in partnership with UNICEF, WHO, the UNDP, and the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). 

After announcing the launch of the hub, WhatsApp also said that it would be donating $1m to the ICFN to support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, which spans more than 100 local organizations in at least 45 countries.  

In addition to the coronavirus information web page, WhatsApp said it is working with its partners to set up public messaging hotlines that will provide verified information. Details of the hotlines are to be listed on the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub when they become available.

WhatsApp, together with TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter, has been used to circulate false information regarding COVID-19. On Monday the Washington Post reported a false rumor doing the rounds on social media that a nationwide lockdown was about to take place in the United States. The fake news seemed to have been started with the intention of causing mass panic buying.

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