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WhatsApp introduces new tool to address fake news, spam

WhatsApp’s latest feature comes in the wake of the growing misuse of the platform for spreading fake videos and rumours.

tech Updated: Jul 07, 2018 19:46 IST
Kul Bhushan
Kul Bhushan
Hindustan Times
WhatsApp,WhatsApp Fake News,WhatsApp Spam
WhatsApp recently introduced competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on the platform.(REUTERS)

After being reprimanded by the Indian government over spread of misinformation, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has started testing tools to resolve the problem on its platform that has more than 200 million users in the country.

The company has introduced a Suspicious Link Detection feature that will help users identify suspicious links (both sent and received) within the messaging application. The application essentially “analyses” the link in order to detect whether it is redirecting to a “fake or alternative website”, reported WABetainfo, a website that tracks updates on WhatsApp.

If WhatsApp finds the link to be malicious, it adds a label called “suspicious link”. The link will come with a warning that reads, “This link contains usual characters. It may be trying to appear as another site.”

The website further highlights that the analysis of link happens “locally” which means the app doesn’t transmit any data to WhatsApp servers, assuring users that the company isn’t compromising on the encryption for messages.

The feature appears to be in the development stage and is part of 2.18.204 beta version on Google Play Store. WhatsApp is expected to roll out the feature after more polishing and trying it out with beta testers.

Apart from misinformation, the new WhatsApp tool is expected to help users identify spams and fraud links. The company recently added a label for forwarded messages, making it easier to identify the mass broadcasted links. ALSO READ: How to make group video, audio calls on WhatsApp

The latest feature comes shortly after WhatsApp received flak from the Indian government for not doing enough to control the spread of rumours.

“While the law and order machinery is taking steps to apprehend culprits, the abuse of platform like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content are equally a matter of deep concern,” the ministry of electronics and information technology had said.

WhatsApp was quick to respond, saying it was taking steps to curb fake news and rumours on the platform. It also introduced a crowdsourced-like programme to have researchers identify issues relating to misinformation on WhatsApp.

Stating that it was working with the civil society to address the problem, it said, “For this first phase of our program, WhatsApp is commissioning a competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp. We welcome proposals from any social science or related discipline that foster insights into the impact of technology on contemporary society in this problem space.”

“The WhatsApp Research Awards will provide funding for independent research proposals that are designed to be shared with WhatsApp, Facebook, and wider scholarly and policy communities. These are unrestricted monetary awards that offer investigators the freedom to deepen and extend their existing research portfolio. Applications are welcome from individuals with established experience studying online interaction and information technologies, as well as from persons seeking to expand their existing research into these areas,” it said in a statement. ALSO READ: How to download and export your WhatsApp data

First Published: Jul 07, 2018 19:05 IST