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Mumbai: Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service on Tuesday rolled out a new feature that would clearly mark forwarded messages in a move aimed at curbing the spread of rumours on its platform.

“This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else," WhatsApp said in its blog.

“It’s important for people to know if a message they’ve received has been forwarded or not. Without this context, it’s not clear whether a message is new or a potential rumour shared by others. The extra information can help people decide if they should take action on the information they have received," said a WhatsApp spokesperson.

The new feature has been introduced for WhatsApp users all over the world accessing the app on Android and iOS platforms. The user will have to update the existing version of the app on his/her phone to view the new feature.

“WhatsApp cares deeply about your safety. We encourage you to think before sharing messages that were forwarded," WhatsApp said.

Last week, the social media giant had said that it has plans to launch a new feature that would act as a content filter for messages sent on groups, in its response to the Indian government’s call to help end a spate of deadly lynchings.

“We have been testing a new label in India that highlights when a message has been forwarded versus one that is composed by the sender. This could serve as an important signal for recipients to think twice before forwarding messages because it lets a user know if content they received was written by the person they know or a potential rumour from someone else," WhatsApp said in its letter to the information technology (IT) ministry, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.

Earlier this month, the IT ministry wrote to WhatsApp to take appropriate measures to curtail the spread of fake news and provocative messages on its platform following a spate of murders in the country over the last month connected to fake messages on social media, which have mainly spread through WhatsApp.

These incidents have been reported from several states, including Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal.

In its response to the government, the company had said that it cannot see the content carried in conversations on the app as these messages are encrypted. However, WhatsApp agreed to respond to “valid law enforcement requests" to help investigate crimes. WhatsApp has also started an education campaign in India on how to spot fake news and rumours. “Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements across the country in English, Hindi, and several other languages. We will build on these efforts going forward," said the WhatsApp spokesperson.

Last week, the Union home ministry issued an advisory asking states and Union territories to initiate effective measures to counter rumours.

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