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California launches new bilingual WhatsApp chatbot focused on combating COVID-19 misinformation

Jeso Carneiro
Flickr Creative Commons

California has launched a new bilingual chatbot that is focused on combating COVID-19 misinformation.

The chatbot is a collaboration with the California Department of Health and the messaging platform WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a service of Meta (formerly known as Facebook). "Our goal here is to be able to get as much authoritative and credible information out there across the state," said Meta manager Adán Chávez.

While the bot is assessable in English and Spanish, the state and WhatsApp have a particular focus on reaching the Spanish-speaking population. "This is our way to try to reach Latinos so that Latinos have everything at their disposal to make the right decision when it comes to COVID-19," Chávez said.

According to data from Statista, over 50% of U.S. Latinos use WhatsApp for instant messaging.

To access the chatbot, all users have to do is text 'Hola' or 'Hi' to 1-833-422-1090 and then will be able to ask COVID-19 related questions. Chávez had some examples, "From what is in the vaccine, to vaccine safety, and security to even just the latest updates and recommendations from the state."

Chávez says there is still so many COVID-19 questions out there and that this chatbot will help answer questions still top of mind.