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WhatsApp Adds Search Feature To Combat Fake News

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In a move to combat the spread of fake news, Facebook owned WhatsApp has added a new feature that allows users to check a forwarded message for facts.

The feature has a magnifying glass icon placed by forwarded messages (messages that has been forwarded, at least, five times). User can click on the icon to check the authenticity of such messages, and verify the content.

“Today, we’re piloting a simple way to double-check these messages by tapping a magnifying glass button in the chat,” WhatsApp says.

The idea of adding this feature is to curb the spread of conspiracy theories, inciting information, and information that could be harmful to people.

WhatsApp Search the Web feature.
Source: WhatsApp blog

In an image released by WhatsApp, an example was made of a message that claims that “drinking freshly boiled garlic water can cure Covid-19”, a report that web searches have come to flag as false.

The new feature, which WhatsApp calls “Search the Web”, will allow users to upload the message to their browser by tapping on the magnifying glass icon.

The messages are sent directly to the browser, preventing WhatsApp from viewing the message.

In the course of fighting the spread of fake news, WhatsApp has implemented series of features, one of them being the reduction in the number of forwarded messages to one, down from five. This feature, WhatsApp says, has reduced the spread of misinformation on WhatsApp by 70%.

WhatsApp has in recent times lamented that end-to-end encryption has in many ways hindered its ability to fight fake news. This is because WhatsApp is unable to read the messages, and because of that, cannot scan the messages for likely falsehood and misleading information.

The new feature is coming at a time when more people are depending on virtual ways of communicating with friends, family, and colleagues, of which, WhatsApp is one of the most used message channels.

The company has confirmed that the new feature would begin rolling out today to users in Brazil, UK, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, US, and Italy.

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