In another move to counter the widespread issue of fake news via the social media platform, WhatsApp has now started to test a new feature, which will allow users to detect if a received link is marked as suspicious.
As reported by WABetaInfo, the feature is currently being tested with Android Beta users only, in the new version 2.18.221. The feature isn’t yet available on iOS or Windows Phone, and is expected to be rolled out in the coming update.
Essentially, the feature works by identifying the characters in the links, or if any unusual pattern is noticed in the web address of any link shared or forwarded. For instance, if a shared link poses to be a bank website address, WhatsApp’s algorithm notices that the web address may actually not be genuine and then marks the link with a red label claiming it's 'suspicious'.
When you receive a suspicious link, you will see WhatsApp displaying a warning that reads, “This link contains unusual characters. It may be trying to appear as another site.” From there you can either go ahead into clicking the link or head back.
WhatsApp detects these links as suspicious locally, which means that it still does not read any of your data from WhatsApp servers in order to verify the link. The chats remain end-to-end encrypted.
Do note, if you are an Android user, you need to make sure you are using WhatsApp beta for Android version 2.18.221. In case you have already updated to the version, but you still can't see the feature, you are recommended to back up your chat history and reinstall WhatsApp. That’s because, each time you reinstall WhatsApp, you get the most updated configurations from the server.
This move from WhatsApp comes after the Indian government has increased pressure on the company to act on the spread of fake news through the platform. The issue of fake news has lead to over 32 cases of lynchings in India over the past year. Recently, WhatsApp also rolled out the Forward label feature, which flags messages and media that are sent across in bulk to other users. WhatsApp has also said that it will soon limit the number of chats a message can be forwarded to at once.