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Facebook Messenger wants developers to help fight coronavirus with accurate info

The program will connect health organisations with developers to speed up responses to people's questions.

PTI|
Last Updated: Mar 23, 2020, 05.58 PM IST
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Agencies
Facebook ​invited software savants to take part in an online "hackathon" aimed at creating ways to use Messenger to ease social-distancing and deliver accurate information about the pandemic.
Facebook invited software savants to take part in an online "hackathon" aimed at creating ways to use Messenger to ease social-distancing and deliver accurate information about the pandemic.
SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Monday began enlisting outside developers to create ways its Messenger service can help health organisations battling the novel coronavirus.

The social network also invited software savants to take part in an online "hackathon" aimed at creating ways to use Messenger to ease social-distancing and deliver accurate information about the pandemic, according to Messenger vice president Stan Chudnovsky in a blog post.

He unveiled a global program intended to connect government health organisations and UN agencies with developers who can create ways to use Messenger share accurate information and speed up responses to people's questions.

Software makers, for example, could help agencies automate answering common questions, to allow staff to tackle more challenging tasks. Developers can also help organisations use software to quickly distribute updated information.

UNICEF and Pakistan's Ministry of National Health already use Messenger to keep people posted about COVID-19, according to the Facebook-owned messaging platform.

Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp recently launched a free World Health Organization alert designed to answer questions about the coronavirus and debunk "coronavirus myths." The service, launching in English, is to expand in coming weeks to include Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.


WhatsApp last week launched a Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with WHO and United Nations organizations. WhatsApp, which claims more than a billion users, issued a $1 million grant to an

International Fact Checking Network alliance devoted to reporting on coronavirus rumors spreading on messaging services.

"We think the most important step WhatsApp can take is to help connect people directly with public health officials providing crucial updates about coronavirus," spokesman Carl Woog told AFP.

Concerns have been raised about WhatsApp and other messaging services being used to spread bogus information about coronavirus. WhatsApp software prevents users from blasting messages to massive numbers of people at once, which tends to be a spam tactic.

The service also labels forwarded or chain messages to show people they did not come directly from a friend or family member.

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Ma’s The Word

25 Mar, 2020
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma (C) showed his benevolent side as he pitched in to help the world fight the novel coronavirus. The founder of e-commerce major, Alibaba, Ma became the most talked about business figure after he said that he would marshall all available resources at his disposal to take on Covid-19. From donating emergency supplies (1.8M masks, 210K test kits, 36K protective suits, plus ventilators & thermometers) to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan & Sri Lanka in Asia to donating 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical use protective suits in each of the 54 African countries, the 55-year-old proved that he was a good Samaritan whose charity was not mapped by geographical boundaries. And even as the business magnate didn’t have India in his list of beneficiaries, there was much talk in the country about his act of generosity. And what followed were natural questions: who among India’s rich was doing a Jack Ma?And it’s not just one individual, but a bunch of lion-hearted boardroom tycoons who have taken the pledge to help fight the virus that has thrown life off-track, in India and across the world.
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