Facebook aims its Messenger at coronavirus battle

Messenger VP unveils a global programme to connect govt health organisations and UN agencies


SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook yesterday 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 VP Stan Chudnovsky in a blog post.

He unveiled a global programme intended to connect government health organisations and United Nations (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 soft- ware 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 Organisation (WHO) 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 UN organisations.

WhatsApp, which claims more than a billion users, issued a US$1 million (RM4.44 million) grant to an International Fact Checking Network alliance devoted to reporting on coronavirus rumours spreading on messaging services.

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. — AFP