By: Nick Gambino
WhatsApp is currently rolling out a new feature that hopefully will work to curtail the spread of misinformation. The feature allows users to quickly perform a search that will show up any false information that has weaseled its way into an “innocent” forwarded message.
Last year, the Facebook-owned company added a forwarded label to messages that were not written by the person sending the message. This was the first step toward helping stem the spread of false information which is prevalent on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
They are now adding a magnifying glass that will appear to the right of any messages that have been forwarded numerous times. When you tap on the magnifying glass icon a little dialogue box will pop up that reads, “Would you like to search this on the web? This will upload the message to Google.”
If you tap “Search Web” it’ll allow you to see if the information being sent to you contains false information. It still requires you to carry through with the Google research to find out for yourself, but it’s a great way to raise awareness about the prevalence of misinformation being passed around by people who’ve not checked it themselves.
This of course might raise concerns about messages being shared with Google or those messages being read by WhatsApp. The messaging platform employs end-to-end encryption, so they’re not supposed to be able to see users’ messages.
“This feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser without WhatsApp ever seeing the message itself,” a WhatsApp blog post announcing the new feature says.
In other words, because they’re putting the Google search task in your hands, they don’t consider it too dissimilar from copy and pasting it into Google. They’re just making it easier for you and encouraging people to do a little research before 100% believing some random message/article forwarded to them.
In a meme-obsessed culture where too many far this-ways or far that-ways believe virtually any meme that further cements their biases…errr beliefs, I’m all for fact-checking and other tools that allow truth to prevail.