WhatsApp is currently developing a new feature to help combat the spread of misinformation and fake news. According to WABetaInfo, code hinting at this potential addition first popped up in the app about a year ago and has since seen further development in beta version 2.20.94.
The feature will allow users to directly search content within messages forwarded to them on the internet to cross-check their validity. It looks like the app will add a search icon next to these messages, and when users click that icon, the app will display a dialogue box asking if they would like to check the content via Google. If the user taps “Search the Web,” it will paste the message in its entirety in Google Search to help verify the information’s credibility.
Though this functionality could look different by the time it goes public, the company has confirmed it will release at least something similar sometime in the future.
“We are working on new features to help empower users to find out more information about the messages they receive that have been forwarded many times,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch. “This feature is currently in testing, and we look forward to rolling it out in the near future.”
Given the current coronavirus pandemic, this could be one of the best times for the Facebook-owned company to release such a feature. There is a lot of misinformation about the virus and the illness it causes — COVID-19 — floating around, and this search functionality could help filter that out. This will also be a useful tool when combating misinformation across all sorts of topics, including national and global politics.