News Corp launches AnzacLive Facebook chatbot to give readers an experience of the frontlines

News Corp Australia has launched a Facebook chatbot aimed at allowing readers to have a one-on-one conversation with a World War I veteran on the Western Front.

ANZAC chatbotThe Facebook Messenger chatbot draws on the real-life character of Australian soldier Archie Barwick, and has been programmed with his extensive diary entries in order to answers questions and send out updates from the battlefield. 

The launch of the AnzacLive chatbot coincides with commemorations for the centenary of the Battle of Fromelles, and builds on last year’s AnzacLive campaign which saw journalists prepare Facebook posts from the diaries of participants in the Gallipoli campaign, which won Social Media Idea of the Year at the Mumbrella Awards last month.

“At a time when media organisations are just starting to recognise the potential of chatbots… now, in July 2016, the characters are in France,” wrote Justin Lees, editor of AnzacLive. “The horrific disaster at Fromelles has just occurred and the grim slaughter at Pozieres is just days away.”

The Facebook chatbot allows readers to ask questions and have them answered in real time, using artificial intelligence technology.

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“We did it to mark the July 1916 battles of Pozieres and Fromelles, the Australians’ first major clashes on the Western Front,” Lees told Mumbrella. “They were horrific eye-openers to a theatre of war that was even more horrendous than Gallipoli, which is where the AnzacLive journey began.”

“We wanted to do something a little special, beyond the usual AnzacLive activity on regular Facebook.”

In launching the AnzacLive chatbot, Lees noted that Barwick’s extensive journals provide a gripping account of what occurred and will culminate tomorrow with the 100th anniversary of when the soldier went over the top of his trench on the Western Front.

“His extensive journals cover everything from his thoughts on the fear of impending battle (‘This may be the last entry I write’) and the enemy (‘I reckon you are justified in shooting the dogs on sight’) to less warlike matters like food, booze, sport and of course his beloved home,” said Lees.

“When he goes over the top on July 22, his description of the carnage and the brutal fighting will become entirely gripping — including how Australians use bayonets and smoke bombs to ‘hunt the Huns like rats from the ruins.'”

Back in April, Facebook launched the new chatbot functionality which is designed to allow media companies and brands to deliver automated messages through bot-like functionality through its Messenger application.


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