WhatsApp is trying get a handle on the ugly side of its platform by testing two new features that could help stop the spread of false information.
The Facebook-owned messaging app is currently beta testing an in-app browser, and a reverse image search tool, which pops up in chat and allows people to search to see where an image came from, before they consider sharing it. The updates to the beta app were first reported by the blog WaBetaInfo, and it’s unclear whether they’ll eventually be rolled out to the public.
As Facebook pivots to a privacy-focused, encrypted messaging business model, WhatsApp’s importance and influence in the Facebook family of apps will only continue to grow. Will Cathcart, who was named the new head of WhatsApp last week after Chris Daniels resigned, will have to find solutions to help stop the deadly violence that has spread as a result of messages on the platform.
Last March, the Sri Lankan government temporarily shut down WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Viber, another messaging app, to stop the spread of misinformation fueling ethnic conflicts in the country. An edited video that purported to show a kidnapping spread in India, leading to mobs killing at least two dozen people. In Mexico, two people were burned to death after being falsely accused of trafficking child organs.
WhatsApp labels forwarded messages. However, in January, the service said it would only allow people to forward a message to five individuals at a time, marking a drastic drop from the previous limit of 20, which allowed rumors to quickly spread.
Last month, WhatsApp said it bans at least two million fake or abusive accounts every month. The company made the comments at a press conference in India, where they discussed how they were preparing ahead of India’s upcoming election.