Last week, WhatsApp promised to act to prevent hoax messages from spreading on its platform, in response to a demand made by the Indian government. Now, it at least seems to have one of many possible moves rolling out to the public.
WhatsApp has been testing a new feature for a while, that highlights when a received message is a popular forward, and now it’s finally implementing it in the main app. It basically attaches a label to the text that declares it as “forwarded”. That means it’s not something the person you’re chatting with has typed out, and it’s changed hands a few times. If it’s a warning of some sort, then it’s probably a hoax.
It’s a move that was sorely needed for WhatsApp, what with the worldwide discussion going on about tackling fake news. This is especially important in the context of India, where we’ve experienced a spate of lynchings and mob violence recently, all sparked by WhatsApp hoaxes.
“Starting today, WhatsApp will indicate which messages you receive have been forwarded to you. This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow,” WhatsApp said in a blog. “It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else.”
Of course, you need to have the latest version of the app for the label to appear at all. Either way, it’s still at least one preventive measure in place now. This way, perhaps some that would otherwise have been taken in by a hoax and blindly shared it without checking its authenticity may think twice.
It’s still a far cry from a fool-proof measure, but at least the app is doing something to stem the tide of falsehoods on its platform.