04 Aug 2020: WhatsApp's new feature will help you fact-check forwarded messages
In a bid to curb the spread of misinformation, WhatsApp is rolling out a feature to check whether a text received on the messaging service is actually true or not.
The capability, currently available in select regions, searches a forwarded message on the web, letting you see all the facts needed to determine the authenticity of the assertion made in the text.
Feature: Search the web button next to forwarded messages
Officially dubbed Search the web, the new feature shows a magnifying glass next to messages that have been forwarded five times or more.
Once you click on this button, WhatsApp shows a prompt to search the content of the message in question on the web. Upon proceeding, the message is looked up to let you find relevant information, context around it.
Clarification: WhatsApp says it will not see the message
The feature can come handy in getting the facts for any rumor/hoax, but given the current situation, it will be particularly useful in fighting off misinformation related to the COVID-19.
Also, regardless of the message, WhatsApp says it will not use this option to see the content of your texts. The feature will simply upload the message to Google, with your permission and browser's.
Roll-out: Roll-out in select countries at this stage
The new feature is being rolled out for both Android and iOS users but only in select countries - Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the UK, and the US.
The company says it is running a pilot of the capability and hasn't shared details about a wider roll-out to other nations, including India, where fake news on WhatsApp has been a longstanding issue.
Other efforts: This is not WhatsApp's first effort to fight misinformation
Given the problem of fake news and how much it has increased lately, WhatsApp has taken several measures to deter the spread of misleading messages.
The company recently imposed the restriction preventing users from sending a frequently forwarded message to more than one chat (contact) at a time. It even shows labels indicating that a message has been forwarded many times.
Fact: Partnerships with several organizations
Additionally, WhatsApp has also worked with the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network and the World Health Organization to launch chatbots dedicated to verifying misinformation, hoaxes, and rumors related to COVID-19 and providing the right facts and resources related to the disease.