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WhatsApp's newest feature makes it easier to debunk hoaxes

WhatsApp's forwarding tool has been a fertile ground for hoax spreading.

What you need to know

  • WhatsApp continues to tackle the spread of hoaxes on its platform.
  • A new feature will let users search the web for content in forwarded messages with the tap of a button.
  • WhatsApp is bringing this to seven countries including Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and the U.S.

WhatsApp is rolling out a new feature that will make it more convenient to fact-check forwarded messages with just the click of a button.

The company announced the change on via its blog, saying:

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.

WhatsApp's forwards have been criticized for being a fertile breeding ground for misinformation, even helping muddy the discourse around the COVID-19 pandemic in its early stages.

Writing on the danger of fast-spreading falsehoods, Android Central's Harish Jonnalagadda said:

WhatsApp forwards are particularly devastating because they mix factual information along with falsified details, and more often than not, it's hard to tell the difference between what's real and what's not.

WhatsApp didn't ban forwards, they did the next best thing in restricting them shortly afterward. With this move, it now becomes even easier for users to identify and fact-check a forwarded message — if they are so inclined.

The new search feature will be rolling out to seven countries including Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and the U.S. on iOS, Android, and the web.

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