WhatsApp adds magnifying tool to help check COVID-19-related misinformation

In recent months we’ve seen WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) takes steps to tackle how content is shared on its platform. More specifically “highly forwarded” or viral messages that may feature misinformation.

This has become of critical importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many health-related stories being shared without any form of factchecking.

In order to assist in this regard, WhatsApp is rolling out a new feature that will allow users to search where the a particularly viral message or story comes from in a bid to better clarify what the source is.

From there, WhatsApp is hoping that it users will be more critical of the information shared on the platform, and question it, when it looks to be false.

“Today, we’re piloting a simple way to double check these messages by tapping a magnifying glass button in the chat. 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,” a blog post explains.

“This feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser without WhatsApp ever seeing the message itself,” it adds.

Unfortunately South African WhatsApp users will need to wait for the feature to reach our shores, with it limited to selected regions in North America, South America, the UK and Europe.

“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 post concludes.

With quite a bit of misinformation circulating locally at the moment, especially when it comes to a COVID-19 cure, we hope the new magnifying glass button appears on the South African version of WhatsApp soon.


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