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WhatsApp Adds Search Feature to Help Users Debunk Fake News
"You can now tell that aunty her COVID-19 cure is a lie."

WhatsApp is releasing a new feature that lets users quickly search the contents of a viral message to fact-check for fake news. The company announced that starting today, a magnifying glass icon will appear next to messages that have been forwarded through a chain of more than five people. Tapping this icon searches the message’s contents online and will reveal any common conspiracy theories or fake information the message may hide.

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WhatsApp claims this new search feature uses advanced algorithms to help debunk any fake news you may receive. The company shared an example of a message sent to users claiming that “drinking freshly boiled garlic water will cure COVID-19”. The magnifying glass search brings up three fact-checking websites which flag the claim as fake news.

If privacy is your concern then don’t worry. WhatsApp claims that the feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser. In addition, WhatsApp never sees the message itself. It is simply directed towards fact-checking sites. The search works the same way a private browsing session would.

The new WhatsApp fact-checking feature is rolling out today. It may take some time to arrive in SA. So far, the feature is available in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the UK and the US. Users need to update their app in order to make use of the new feature. Keep in mind that the magnifying icon will not appear unless that said text has been forwarded to more than five people.

This new feature is just another step Facebook is taking to prevent false information spreading through the app. Earlier this year, WhatsApp announced it would limit the number of people you can forward texts to. This was also to help stop the spread of fake news. It is unclear whether or not the change helped in any way.

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