WhatsApp is under fire over reports of mob violence and lynching incidents in India, due to spread of misinformation and videos on the platform. The Facebook-owned app has rolled out some new features in order to stop misleading photos, videos and messages from spreading on it, and some are in beta-testing phase. These include Forwarded label, more controls to Group Admins, etc.
Of course, the fight against misinformation is not easy due to the sheer number of people who use WhatsApp globally, which is nearly 1.5 billion. In India, over 250 million users are on WhatsApp. In a response letter to India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT), WhatsApp has made it clear that it will ramp up efforts to fight fake news in India.
Let us take a look at the top WhatsApp features for fighting fake news on the platform:
WhatsApp Forwarded label
WhatsApp has started to tag forwarded messages, which will supposedly prevent the spread of misinformation on the platform. The Forwarded label works for photos, videos as well as text messages making it easier for users to identify stuff that is being circulated. Of course, Forwarded label is not a full-proof solution to all problems of fake news, but will hopefully make users mindful of what they mass forward.
It is unclear to what extent will Forwarded label be successful in a country like India. where many may not even understand its purpose or perhaps be bothered by its presence. Plus it will not take long for users to figure out a work-around to the Forwarded label as well. WhatsApp users can get rid of the tag by attaching media directly from device’s gallery or copy-pasting text to send to friends.
The idea is that when users receive a message that has the ‘Forward label’ they will be more skeptical of it, perhaps question its authenticity as well. They will also know that the person who has sent them the message, did not write it.
More control to Group Admins
WhatsApp Group Admins now have a lot more control over who can send messages on a group, change group photo and description, etc. The features will essentially prove to be helpful for bigger groups on WhatsApp, where a large number of people are involved. As a group admins, one can make co-admins as well, thus giving power to send messages, etc only to those who can be relied upon.
The same goes for scenarios where group admins can decide whether all participants or only group admins can change WhatsApp group description, name, etc.
WhatsApp testing ‘Suspicious Link Detection’ feature
WhatsApp is testing a ‘Suspicious Link Detection’, a feature that will alert uses of spam by putting a red label on links that it knows lead to a fake or alternative website. Additionally if a message has been forwarded from a device more than 25 times, the message could be blocked. However, the feature is being tested and not live yet.
The features were spotted on Android beta, which means it could be rolled out for public soon. Links of websites claiming to offer free vouchers, free tickets, etc are a popular form of spam on WhatsApp, especially in India. Such a step could also help curb the spread such misinformation on the platform.
WhatsApp users can report spam and get someone reported for sending spam
Remember, the messaging platform also blocks spam based on users reports. WhatsApp also says that it takes advantage of machine learning algorithm to identify high volume messages or messages in bulk to stop spread of fakes news and stop automated messages. In addition, WhatsApp users can report these messages or users who send bulk spam.