This is not just the case in COVID-19 outbreak, but earlier as well, WhatsApp forwards has been widely used to spread hate speech, misinformation, and plan violent gatherings all over the world. A lot of regions have witnessed riots and chaotic situations sparked by wrongful WhatsApp forwards. And now, when the world is fighting a global pandemic, WhatsApp is being used to spread hoaxes and wrong information regarding fake treatments, illegal precautionary measures, etc. resulting in people being misguided about the infection.
Fake Messages on WhatsApp
Last night, I received an utterly bizarre theory on how the Chinese administration has implanted the virus deliberately in response to trade bans imposed by the USA. There is no evidence to prove it, and the content of the message itself made no logic or sense. But regardless, it must have reached thousands now and may have sparked debates which have no sense to it.
This chain of forwards is what creates fake news over WhatsApp and leads to a misuse of the platform to misguide the general public.
WhatsApp to Test New Feature to Prevent Spread of Hoaxes
Facebook Inc., the parent company of WhatsApp, is now testing a Search Message feature on the Beta version of the app. The feature will allow users to search for the authenticity of the information on any such text before forwarding it to someone else. The company has previously tested the feature, but it did not make it to the users. This time probably we’ll need this feature more than ever.
How will “Search Messages” Work?
Step 1: In a chat, personal or group messages, forwarded messages are marked with a swished arrow and a text-mark saying Forwarded.
Step 2: In this feature, there will be a search sign; you’ll be able to see beside every forwarded text.
Step 3: When you tap on it, you’ll be asked if you want to search the message on the web. Tap on Search Web.
Step 4: The message will be as it is copied on the search engine.
Step 5: The web will show you results related to the information in the message.
Search Results on The Web
The web won’t show results directly based on the text content as it could be too long but will focus on keywords to give related information. If the message is authentic, you’ll see some news article in top stories confirming the same. If you don’t see anything in the top stories, it means that the message forwards to you is a fake. This way, you’ll prevent yourself from sharing wrong information and will break the chain of hoax and contain its repercussions among the public.
The feature is currently in testing phase on WhatsApp Beta, and there is no confirmation of it being released to the users as of yet. Till then, as a user, we urge you to confirm whether a piece of shared information is authentic by manually searching for the same on the internet. The last thing the world needs is mass hysteria or wrong information spread around as facts in these tough times.