WhatsApp to combat “fake news” with reverse image search

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An illustration of WhatsApp logo
Design by Bisma Ilyas / TechEngage

2018 saw WhatsApp significantly step up their efforts to combat the spread of “fake news” on their app. The app now tells users if a message is “forwarded” and limits the number of people they can forward a message to. With its latest addition, users will be able to reverse search an image from within the app to find out if a message is real or not.

Spreading fake news is a common occurrence in the messaging app. Information can’t necessarily be trusted or authenticated, but people are quick to react to it. WhatsApp has recognized this problem on its platform and has made efforts to curb the behavior.

The app’s latest efforts allows users to reverse search an image using Google in order to make sure they are not old or recycled images being labeled as new. There have been many examples of people using fake or old images to illustrate news stories and create drama. This new step can help WhatsApp cut down on the circulation of fake news that has media attached to it.

The feature is currently in the latest WhatsApp Beta (2.19.73) but can’t be accessed by all users yet. The feature is only available for internal testing, for now, so only WhatsApp employees can access the feature.

WhatsApp has reported that they are actively banning as many as 2 million accounts a month to combat the spread of fake news and that the biggest culprit of fake news originates from India.

While fake news is too complex and ill-defined to simply put a stop to, incendiary content with fake images can be significantly reduced.

We don’t yet have a date for the release of the new feature, but we suspect it will be one of the apps most impactful features thus far. Most fake news relies on using images to make the news feel authentic.

If users can see that the image is from a piece of older news or alternate source, they might think twice before reacting or forwarding it along.

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