WhatsApp is currently rated one of the most popular instant messaging apps in the world, and now it has rolled out a new feature in select markets that allows users to verify whether an idea portrayed in a message they have received is true or false.
The Facebook-owned company has reportedly rolled the feature out only in selected countries like Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and the US to click on a magnifying glass-shaped icon next to frequently forwarded messages, those that have been forwarded at least five times, to search the web for their contents and verify them.
WhatsApp explained that the new feature, which is called ‘search the web’, works by allowing users to upload the text message via their browser. This is a further confirmation that WhatsApp itself never sees the content of any message, it said in a blog post. (The feature currently does not support looking up images and videos.)
The feature, available across WhatsApp’s Android, iOS, and Web apps are in the pilot stage, the messaging platform said. It remains unclear how soon WhatsApp intends to roll out this feature, which it began testing several months ago, to users across the globe.
But regardless, the new feature comes at a time when WhatsApp and other messaging platforms are being used more often than ever before as people stay in touch with their friends, families, and colleagues at the height of a global pandemic.
WhatsApp, which has been forced to confront the spread of misinformation challenge on its platform in recent years, has introduced several features and imposed restrictions to better control the flow in the past year.
In April, WhatsApp put in place additional restrictions on how frequently a message could be shared on its platform. WhatsApp said that any message that has been forwarded five or more times will now face a new limit that will prevent a user from forwarding it to more than one chat (contact) at a time. Weeks later, the volume of “highly forwarded” messages had already dropped by 70% globally, said.
WhatsApp has also sealed partnership deals with several fact-checking organizations across the globe to help people verify claims made in viral messages.
Though WhatsApp has visibly rushed to take timely actions in recent quarters, fake news has not vanished from the app. Ill-informed explanations about several of Indian government’s recent decisions and “cures” of Covid-19 were still doing rounds on the platform a few months ago in India, its biggest market, for instance.
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