WhatsApp gets new feature to tackle fake news in India

For the past year, WhatsApp has been under pressure from the Indian government over uncontrolled spread of fake news on its messenger app. Prior to the general elections 2019 (April 7-May 23), Facebook-owned company took several initiatives such as controlling the forwarded messages to five per day between users and also educate people on print and online media on how to detect and curb the circulation of misinformation.

Now, WhatsApp has updated its messenger app for iOS and Android versions with a new feature, where it will tag messages or images shared on its platform as 'frequently forwarded'. 

The company believes it will help users develop a conscience and look for more information to ascertain whether the message is authentic or not. Only after confirmation, he or she will go ahead by forwarding it to friends or family.

"We’ve recently introduced an update to our forwarded message label that helps people identify when they’ve received messages that were previously forwarded several times, such as a chain message. These highly forwarded messages will be marked with a double arrow icon and users will receive a notice when they are forwarding such a message.” – WhatsApp Spokesperson said to DH.

It can be noted that there were several cases of mob lynching in rural areas in India after a rumour message claiming child lifters are on the rise and it went viral on WhatsApp. This apparently made villagers get hysterical and turned vigilantes beating migrant workers to death.

In July 2018, a mob of people in Mangaluru (Karnataka) mistook a man carrying his toddler son, as a child lifter and beat the father up badly. Thankfully, Police rescued the person in the nick of time.

After launching anti-fake news initiatives,  vigilantism cases related to misinformation on child-lifters has relatively come down in India. 

With the latest feature, it will further help people become more aware and don't fall for any rumours.

Furthermore, WhatsApp will truncate long messages such as chain messages. Going forward, it will arrive truncated so users will have to tap to see the full message. "We think this will reduce the frustration of receiving such messages within a group chat," WhatsApp spokesperson added.

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