WhatsApp launches new tool to help users spot fake news

Image shows the new Search the Web feature in WhatsApp in action

WhatsApp has launched a new tool called ‘Search the web’ that allows users that have been sent links to quickly find information about them from the web. In an example, WhatsApp showed a link someone had been sent that claimed that drinking boiled garlic water would cure COVID-19. The recipient can now press the magnifying glass button to search for information about the link. In the example, the user is shown web results from fact-checking websites that prove the claim is false.

The new feature is part of a wider drive by WhatsApp to curb fake news from spreading on its platform. In a previous update, double arrows were added to let users know that messages have not originated from a close contact – these let users know they’re perpetuating chain messages that could be fake.

In 2018, Facebook began rolling out a feature that restricted how many times a message could be forwarded to others. After a six month evaluation period, the firm decided to restrict messaging forwarding so that messages can only be sent to five chats at once. In review, it said this measure has reduced message forwarding by 25%.

With the on-going coronavirus pandemic, giving users the ability to quickly verify information is very important. Several fake theories have already spread widely including the false belief that 5G helps coronavirus spread, which led to arson attacks.

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