New WhatsApp feature cracks down on fake viral messages

WhatsApp has implemented additional measures which allow its users to test the validity of messages that have been forwarded many times on the platform.

These messages will appear with a magnifying glass icon next to them, and tapping this icon will open the user’s browser and execute a search.

This search will uncover news results and other information about the message in question.

WhatsApp has stressed that the feature, which it calls “Search the Web”, will never allow it to see your messages and cited user privacy as the reason for this.

Users must have the latest versions of WhatsApp for Android, iOS, and WhatsApp Web to access this feature.

The feature is being rolled out in the following countries:

  • Brazil
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Mexico
  • Spain
  • UK
  • US

It is unclear when this feature will be available in South Africa.

WhatsApp fights against fake news

The “Search the Web” feature is the latest in a string of measures implemented by WhatsApp to help users avoid being caught out by fake viral messages.

WhatsApp first introduced restrictions on the forwarding of viral messages in April which limit this to one-at-a-time.

The platform makes it easy to see which messages qualify as viral by labelling them with double arrows within the app.

This restriction also stops fake news from being spread over the messaging platform, which is increasingly important as misinformation about the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to circulate across social media and messaging platforms.

“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” said WhatsApp.

Within a month the company said that these implementations had reduced the spread of viral messages on its platform by 70% globally.

“This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations. WhatsApp is committed to doing our part to tackle viral messages,” WhatsApp said.

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New WhatsApp feature cracks down on fake viral messages