Whatsapp has introduced a feature that will allow users to check the contents of viral messages in its latest efforts to curb the spread of misinformation.
The Facebook-owned messaging platform is piloting the feature in six countries from this week.
Users will now be able to conduct a Google search on forwarded content to fact check information and claims contained therein.
The fact-check will be made possible by a magnifying glass that has been added next to messages forwarded through chains of five or more people. Tapping the icon will commence a Google search of the message contents, with the hope that this should reveal any conspiracy theories or misinformation.
“We’re piloting a simple way to double-check these messages by tapping a magnifying glass button in the chat,” WhatsApp said.
“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.”
Whatsapp has encountered challenges curbing the spread of misinformation due to the fact that its messages are encrypted, meaning that the company or authorities cannot see the contents of the messages. The new feature gives users control by allowing them to do the fact checking.
“This feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser without Whatsapp ever seeing the message itself,” the company said.
This year, Whatsapp introduced a limit on the number of times a message can be forwarded. Viral messages can now be forwarded on to one more person, instead of the previous limit of five. Until 2018, users had been able to forward a message to a maximum of 250 groups, . This was reduced to 20, five in 2019 and now, one.
Facebook said that the limit had been effective, cutting down the spread of viral messages by 70 percent.