Tía de Whatsapp, Venezuela's fact-checking chatbot
Tía de Whatsapp, Venezuela's fact-checking chatbot Photo courtesy of Efecto Cocuyo

For better (although usually for worse), aunts have been on the forefront of spreading information around through Whatsapp like wildfire. "La tía de Whatsapp" (the aunt from Whatsapp) has become a running joke among many Latino communities, to the point that they have become synonymous with disinformation, rumor spreading and perpetuating hoaxes.

But a news organization in Venezuela is on a mission to change the reputation of that beloved tía and make her an agent of reliable information.

Efecto Cocuyo has launched La Tía del Whatsapp, a chatbot that helps verify viral content, hoaxes and assertions by public officials. And it couldn't come at a better time, as Venezuela inches closes and closer to its highly anticipated presidential election and the campaign trail will be packed with opportunities for disinformers to feast on.

The origins of La Tía

"Just as there are uncles and aunts sharing hoaxes via WhatsApp, many of us are also aunts who debunk this disinformation" said the news site's director Luz Mely Reyes when presenting the chatbot. The character was born in 2023 as part of Efecto Cocuyo's coverage of the opposition primary elections, which marked the beginning of current electoral cycle.

It was a character whose voice was spread through WhatsApp groups and social media in 2023. As Reyes puts it, the label of "disinformers" and "gossipers" has been traditionally attributed to aunts in Venezuela and other cultures but Efecto Cocuyo wanted to change the narrative and reclaim the role of La Tía as that person who's interest in the public debate has now led her to stay well-informed with the help of nieces and nephews who have grown more resourceful with new media.

"She now manages to confirm, contrast and verify everything that comes her way," explained Danisbel Gómez, Efecto Cocuyo's Strategy Director.

The current version of the character is a woman between her 50s and 60s who communicates in a fresh, dynamic way with her family members, using humor to talk in a direct way and clarify electoral disinformation.

How La Tía works

"La Tía del Whatsapp is a simple and intuitive tool that allows the general public to interact in a friendly and direct manner to verify content they consider suspicious, without the limitations of not having internet research skills" explains Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez, coordinator of Cocuyo Chequea, Efecto Cocuyo's verification unit.

"A chatbot enables more efficient distribution of the verifications produced by media that apply the fact-checking methodology, allowing direct reach to audiences interested or concerned with these contents," she added.

La Tía's chatbot can provide automatic responses powered by AI integrated into the site's database. This way, it allows users to easily verify whether the information they have shared or received via social media is true, false, or questionable, and why.

If you wish to interact with La Tía de Whatsapp and verify questionable information around the Venezuelan election feel free to add her to your Whatsapp contacts through +57 350 650 6989. The international number has been chosen to avoid censorship, a practice that has become all too common in the country and has been on the rise as of late.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.