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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Tech firms block false info, spread awareness about virus

  • Tech platforms are giving a stronger voice to WHO, which is leading efforts to contain the viral disease
  • A quick search for coronavirus-related apps on Google’s Android Play Store turns up a blank, suggesting that the tech giant has taken measures to prevent miscreants from using this opportunity

MUMBAI : As the death toll from the Covid-19 epidemic rises globally, several tech platforms have taken the initiative to give a stronger voice to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading global efforts against the viral disease.

Indian artificial intelligence startup Haptik has introduced a chatbot, Coronavirus helpdesk, to spread awareness about precautions and safety measures against the infection as WhatsApp continues to be a common channel of misinformation through mass messages. “Social media and news channels are the primary outlets via which people are getting to know about the virus. However, it is often difficult to find answers to specific doubts that may persist within a context applicable to them. Moreover, today, people tend to mass-forward messages they receive without verifying the contents, often leading to false or incorrect information being spread," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Data on WHO’s website showed the bot is trained to answer frequently asked questions on Covid-19. These include information on basic hygiene standards, preventive measures, common symptoms and myths.

Last week, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook and Instagram are providing WHO with as many free ads as it needs for outreach related to the outbreak. It is also providing ad credits to other organizations and working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Unicef and national ministries of health worldwide.

Google announced on Wednesday it will give all G Suite customers free access to advanced Hangouts features through 1 July, while Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial for its premium tier of Microsoft Teams.

A quick search for coronavirus-related apps on Google’s Android Play Store turns up a blank, suggesting that the tech giant has taken measures to prevent miscreants from using this opportunity.

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