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In this screenshot, WhatsApp uses the example of a viral message which claims 'drinking fresh boiled garlic water will cure COVID-19' (WhatsApp)
In this screenshot, WhatsApp uses the example of a viral message which claims 'drinking fresh boiled garlic water will cure COVID-19' (WhatsApp)

WhatsApp new 'Search the web' feature: How it works

  • In an earlier version of WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned company had put a limit on the number of times a single forwarded message could be shared at a time
  • With 'Search the web' feature, WhatsApp will let users check the authenticity of the forwarded message to avoid being ill-informed

Wonder if a news about the novel coronavirus pandemic or any other trending topic is true or is simply a viral forwarded message going around on WhatsApp, one of the most popular social messaging apps in the world? If so, WhatsApp has now added a fresh feature to help you debunk such viral or frequently forwarded messages to stop the spread of fake news and misinformation on its platform.

In an earlier version of WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned company had put a limit on the number of times a single forwarded message could be shared at one go. The two arrows above a message help people know when they’ve received a message that was not written by a close contact.

The company had announced a new feature to stem the flow of misinformation around coronavirus. A user will now be able to forward messages to only one chat at a time. The limit will kick in once a message has been forwarded on the platform five times, after which, a message can be forwarded to either one WhatsApp group or an individual at a time.

Now, with the 'Search the web' feature's roll out, WhatsApp will let users check the authenticity of the forwarded message to avoid being ill-informed, the company announced in a blog post.

How to use Search the web feature:

A magnifying glass icon will start appearing next to messages that have been forwarded through a chain of five or more people. Tapping it searches for the message’s contents online, with the idea being that this should reveal any common conspiracy theories or misinformation the message contains.

"(We are) Providing a simple way to search messages that have been forwarded many times may help people find news results or other sources of information about content they have received," the company said in a statement.

This feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser without WhatsApp ever seeing the message itself.

In a screenshot of the feature (shown above) released by WhatsApp, the company uses the example of a viral message which claims that “drinking fresh boiled garlic water will cure COVID-19." A web search brings up three fact-checking websites, which flag this claim as false.

Search the web is being rolled out starting today in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and US for those on the latest versions of WhatsApp for Android, iOS and WhatsApp Web, the company stated.

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