Facebook aims its Messenger at coronavirus battle

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. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Facebook aims its Messenger at coronavirus battle

  • 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

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Monday began enlisting outside developers to create ways its Messenger service can help health organizations 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 organizations 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 organizations 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.


Meet the Saudi man who Trump’s COVID-19 Twitter blunder accidently made famous

Updated 30 March 2020

Meet the Saudi man who Trump’s COVID-19 Twitter blunder accidently made famous

  • Donald Trump was meant to tag the Food and Drug Association

RIYADH: It’s not every day that you’re mentioned by the most powerful man in the world, but MLK, better known as @FdA found himself the star of the show when he was tagged on twitter by the leader of the free world President Donald Trump.

A mix-up in Twitter handles found him mentioned on the platform by @realDONALDTRUMP, when President Trump retweeted an article about a research institute that developed technology which “can clean up to 80,000 pieces of PPE (personal protective equipment) for use.” The author of the article says in her tweet that it is a “huge breakthrough in the fight against the #coronavirus.”

The comment on the retweet read: Highly recommended by Governor @MikeDeWine of Ohio. @FDA must move quickly!

Considered an honest mistake, While the actual food and drug administration handle is @US_FDA.

MLK aka @FdA has his location set to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On twitter, MLK does not follow anyone nor does he have any tweets posted. However, his follower numbers are another story with a cool 16.6 thousand.