WhatsApp wants to fight the spread of fake news — and that means a meaningful change is coming to its app.
On Tuesday, the company announced it’s adding labels to forwarded messages so users can better identify rumors, fake news, and other false information that often spreads via the messaging app.
With the update, forwarded messages will have a small “forwarded” label, similar to forwarded email messages, indicating the note was originally written by someone other than the sender.
It may seem like a minor update, but it’s one the company says could help people identify fake news and other types of misinformation. “WhatsApp cares deeply about your safety. We encourage you to think before sharing messages that were forwarded,” the company wrote in a blog post.
The Facebook-owned app has faced a great deal of scrutiny in recent months over its role in spreading false information that’s lead to a series of violent incidents in India, including lynchings and the killing of a “rumor buster” hired by the government to warn locals about fake news.
Last week India’s Ministry of Electronics sent a strongly-worded warning to the company, asking it to “take immediate action” on the issue.
WhatsApp has responded with new features, including new admin controls for group messages, as well as a bigger initiative to study fake news. The app is also taking out full-page newspaper ads in India to warn users not to trust forwarded messages.