WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, but that also means a lot of misinformation and rumors are shared on the platform. Separating fact from fiction is important, especially with everything this year has thrown at us. Now WhatsApp is starting to roll out a feature that lets users quickly search Google for frequently shared messages to see if there's more info online.
This story was originally published and last updated .
Misinformation spreads faster than facts these days. The juicier and the more outrageous a story is, the more likely it is to run around social networks and messaging apps like wildfire, so even uncle Gerard whom you haven't heard from in two years ends up sending it to you so you "know better." Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and every app with a large number of users suffers from this and has been taking measures to combat this. WhatsApp is now taking a more drastic measure to stop the spread of viral messages by prohibiting you from forwarding them in bulk.
In regular times, social media is crucial in helping us stay in touch with relatives and catch up on some news. Its role has been massively amplified these days, as the world faces one of the biggest challenges we've seen in recent times. But you need to keep in mind that not everything you see online is right, and not everyone knows that fact. WhatsApp understands the role it plays in information propagation and is adding two features to keep everyone properly educated and help them spot wrong stories and facts.
Today several of the bigger technology and social media companies, including Google, Facebook, Reddit, Microsoft, and Twitter, issued a joint industry statement regarding their response to the coronavirus. All of the companies are committed to "combating fraud and misinformation."
Google is working hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, so it has added curated safety tips and information cards to coronavirus search results. It didn't include the Play Store in these efforts right away, though, and it looks like that helped some bad actors: Until recently, a search for "coronavirus" or "covid-19" led to apps and games with mostly questionable content. While there are legitimate apps sprinkled between these bad results, Google seems to have decided to fully slam the brakes for now and has stopped showing results altogether for any query containing "covid-19," "coronavirus," or "corona." The solution isn't waterproof, though: searches for "covid19" (sans dash) and other misspelled variations still give you results.
WhatsApp is collaborating with a startup in India as it hopes to change the perception that the messaging app is used to spread misinformation. A new feature will help users determine the credibility of information sent to them during the country's national elections.