WhatsApp Testing Search Messages on Web Feature to Curb Spread of Fake Messages Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

WhatsApp is testing the ability to search messages on the Web directly from the app, to ascertain their authenticity, and essentially call out fake messages. This feature has been under development for a while, and it is expected to roll out sometime in the future. Given the recent coronavirus pandemic and the barrage of messages flooding WhatsApp, this feature will help filter the misinformation, and help highlight credible messages. The feature isn’t available yet, so even if users are on the latest beta, they may not be able to use it.

WABetaInfo reports that this ability to search messages on the Web has been spotted in the code of the latest beta version 2.20.94. The instant messaging app displays a search icon next to forwarded messages, enabling users to click on it and search the Web. When you do click on it, a message pops up and it reads, “Would you like to search this on the Web? This will upload the message on Google.” Hit on the ‘Search the Web’ button and it will then search on Google. The entire message will be pasted in the Google Search bar, and relevant results can then be used to ascertain whether the message is fake or not. As mentioned, this feature is not enabled in beta yet, and is still under development.

WhatsApp confirmed the existence of this feature. “We are working on new features to help empower users to find out more information about the messages they receive that have been forwarded many times. This feature is currently in testing, and we look forward to rolling it out in the near future,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

To further its efforts to curb fake news, WhatsApp recently introduced a dedicated WHO bot to provide latest updates, alerts, and mythbusters on coronavirus. The bot on WhatsApp can be used to access the latest number of reported cases, travel advice, and news related to the outbreak.

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