Social media platform WhatsApp has launched a new feature it hopes will make discourse more truthful. “Search the web” allows users to click on a small magnifying-glass image next to posts shared more than five times, which will search the Internet for their content and verify them.
The add-on, which is being piloted in the US, UK, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Ireland and Italy, allows users to upload a text message via their browser. WhatsApp claims this ensures it never views the contents of the message.
The move follows an April mod in which WhatsApp prevented how frequently messages could be forwarded on its platform. Just weeks later the company announced that the transmission of “highly forwarded” messages—which frequently contribute to misinformation—was
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which has faced severe criticism of its reluctance to fight misinformation – including from its own employees. “Search the web” comes just months before the 2020 US Presidential election, which promises to prompt a flood of misleading political claims.
Incumbent President Donald Trump is renowned for his repeated false claims, and has baselessly questioned the legitimacy of mail voting, as his own polling figures fall far behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden.