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10 Jul 2018

WhatsApp has new features and tips to detect fake news

WhatsApp publishes guidelines to detect fake news

WhatsApp is finally beginning its campaign against fake news. With its new feature, users would be able to tell which messages are random forwards and which real.

The Facebook-owned messaging service had earlier said it was "horrified" over rumor-triggered lynching, and that it was taking requisite action.

It took at least 19 deaths for the company to launch this, but better late than never.

In context

WhatsApp publishes guidelines to detect fake news
A range of suggestions for users


A range of suggestions for users

In an ad published in Indian newspapers, WhatsApp has issued several guidelines for users.

People have been urged to "check information that seems unbelievable," "look out for messages that look different," "question information that upsets you," "use other sources" to verify news and "check photos in messages carefully."

"Be thoughtful of what you share," reads one.

The ad ends with a warning: "Fake news often goes viral."

Spam detection

A new spam-detection feature in the works

About the new spam-detection feature, WhatsApp was said to be testing it back in January.

According to reports, when one forwards a message, it will get labeled as 'Forwarded'. However, simply copying the text and sending it to someone will not be shown with the 'Forwarded' tag.

WhatsApp apparently isn't providing an option to disable this feature either.

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'Double-check when you're unsure who wrote the original message'

Though WhatsApp didn't mention in the ad what the feature would contain, it said it'd start rolling out this week. It'd "let you see which messages have been forwarded." It also has a tip: "Double-check the facts when you're unsure who wrote the original message."


No one knows where the 'child-lifting' messages started

No one knows where the viral 'child-lifting' messages originated on WhatsApp, but they've led to the deaths of at least 28 people in a year.

In most cases, the 'local-versus-outsider' sentiment was on display, especially in tribal areas like Karbi Anglong and Rainpada.

Efforts to counter them have backfired horrifyingly: in Tripura's Kalachhara, a man spreading awareness against rumor-mongering was lynched on similar suspicions.


Irony: WhatsApp replacing Facebook as more trusted source of news

It doesn't help that WhatsApp is replacing Facebook as a more trusted source of news.

According to the Reuters Institute, the use of Facebook for consuming news has reduced 9% from 2017 as more users turn to WhatsApp.

A key factor is consumers looking for more personal and less confrontational spaces, experts said.

Incidentally, India is WhatsApp's largest market, with 200mn monthly active users.

WhatsApp "horrified" at lynchings, assures steps against fake news


WhatsApp "horrified" at lynchings, assures steps against fake news

After the government expressed concerns about the propagation of fake news via WhatsApp, it listed steps it's taking to combat the menace of fake news.

In mid-May, WhatsApp added protections to prevent users who leave a group from being added back.

Group admins can now control who can send messages.

It also announced plans of working with academia, and of launching an engagement program with law enforcement officials.

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