The Facebook-owned WhatsApp has seen a slew of new features tested in a bid to help prevent the spread of fake news. Now a couple of new features including an in-app browser and reverse image search are being tested to help even further (via WABetaInfo).
[Update 08/04]: After an extensive test period of well over a year, the Search the Web option is now officially rolling out for WhatsApp to help you fact check the potential spread of fake news. The option should be available now in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and US for those on the latest versions of WhatsApp for Android, iOS and WhatsApp Web.
If you happen to receive a message that forwarded multiple times, then you’ll see an option that indicates a message has been sent to multiple WhatsApp contacts and has the potential to contain harmful fake news. You’ll see a magnifying glass option that will allow you to instantly search and fact check that particular link or image.
WhatsApp provides a special forwarded label to messages shared in chats that have been forwarded many times. These two arrows help people know when they’ve received a message that was not written by a close contact. Earlier this year, we set limits on how many times they can be sent at once to maintain the private nature of WhatsApp.
Today, we’re piloting a simple way to double check these messages by tapping a magnifying glass button in the chat. Providing a simple way to search messages that have been forwarded many times may help people find news results or other sources of information about content they have received.
This feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser without WhatsApp ever seeing the message itself.
This comes after the messaging firm put limits on how many times a message could be forwarded within the application earlier this year — which was another effort to curb the spread of misinformation or fake news. The biggest problem is getting people to actively use the feature and not expect them to use it.
Privacy-conscious folks will be happy that this feature will allow you to upload content without WhatsApp ever seeing the message itself. Combining this with the end-to-end encryption, it makes for a solid place to fact check the content shared directly between you and your contacts.
As you’d expect, the in-app browser is relatively self-explanatory and allows you to open links sent within chats without leaving the core application. It’s worth noting that you aren’t able to take a screenshot or record your display when using this feature. If you try and open a web page that is considered harmful, you’ll get a warning pop-up.
One of the other core features that is being tested by WhatsApp is the ability to perform a reverse image search from within the application (via WABetaInfo). This could be a great way to check if the image you’ve been sent is indeed real or fake. Of course, this won’t stop the spread of fake news but it might go some way to helping prevent fake images from spreading and generating unwarranted attention.
We have no word on whether these features will eventually see a full release on WhatsApp. The features are rolling out to beta app users right now globally.
More on WhatsApp:
- WhatsApp will get a Group Invitation System, testing new Status features
- WhatsApp bans 2M accounts per month, explains the automated tools used
- WhatsApp to begin limiting message forwarding to 5 individuals or groups to curb fake news
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