After a series of unfortunate incidents in India over the spread of misinformation, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp is testing a new feature to resolve the problem on its platform which has over 1 billion active monthly users.
Following a strong missive from the Indian government last week, WhatsApp had responded with a list of features it was rolling out to control the spread of messages that had led to instances of violence across India over the past few week.
As per WABetaInfo, the new WhatsApp Suspicious Link Detection feature will come with Android beta version 2.18.204 and later. It's a small shift for the messaging platform, but potentially one that could make a big difference in the way people transmit information, especially dubious viral content, over the app.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had last week asked for greater accountability from WhatsApp, saying that the government will not tolerate any misuse of the platform to spread fake messages created to "provoke" and "instigate" people.
In a blog post accompanying the new message feature, WhatsApp encouraged its users to stop and think before sharing a forwarded message. According to WhatsApp, "many messages containing hoaxes or fake news have spelling mistakes".
"Starting today, WhatsApp will indicate which messages you receive have been forwarded to you", WhatsApp said in a statement announcing the new feature.
"Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages". The company will build on such efforts going forward, the spokesperson added. Group admins will also be able to restrict a user from sending a particular message.
WhatsApp checks the authenticity of the website link provided in the message, while the user forwards the message, the report suggests.
And WhatsApp has since taken some steps. The label will apply to text, image, video and audio messages globally, a spokesperson confirmed to Poynter.
Just yesterday, Google-owned YouTube pledged $25 million to support and highlight legitimate news sources, while last month Facebook revealed it was extending its fact-checking program to more countries.
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