WhatsApp has announced that they are piloting a simple way to double check viral and forwarded messages by adding a search feature. The addition is to further combat the spread of misinformation, especially to do with COVID-19.
A magnifying glass icon will appear next to messages that have been forwarded through a chain of five or more people. Tapping it will search for the message’s contents online, revealing truth to any common conspiracy theories or misinformation that the message contains.
In WhatsApp’s example (seen above), a magnifying glass icon appears next to a message with two arrows (it helps people know when they’ve received a message that was not written by a close contact). Pressing on the magnifying glass will result in a notification asking if you’d like to search the web.
You’ll then be taken to a separate browser where it will show you the top results of the search. From there, you’ll be able to see if it’s accurate, or misinformation.
In May, Poynter Institute launched a WhatsApp bot that aims to let you fact-check COVID-19 claims. While the new magnifying glass feature hasn’t reached here yet in Malaysia, the WhatsApp bot could be a tool for if you receive a forwarded message containing potentially false information.
So far, the new search feature has appeared on iOS, Android, and Web in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the UK, and the US.