The feature for forwarded messages is presently only available in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and US, on the latest versions of apps on Android, iOS, and WhatsApp Web.
Forwarded messages are already indicated with the two-arrows label, now users will also see a magnifying glass beside the message and tapping it will search the content on web and allow them to verify the information from other sources.
The platform claims the feature works by users uploading the message via the browser “without WhatsApp ever seeing the message itself”.
In the Indian context, WhatsApp has long had a fake news and misinformation problem, which has often had real-world consequences and inciting communal or religious divide and civic panic. Despite a few of the platform’s efforts such as the ‘Forwarded’ label and limit to forwarding at one time, the problem persists.
During the pandemic too, several “cures” and “immunity boosters” emerged through forwards, exploiting the already vulnerable conditions of the people, in spite of the information hub launched by WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Forwards have been fueled by both literates(digitally & otherwise) and others, while the feature holds potential for the literates(digitally & otherwise), several questions surface for others.
The risk of non-verified messages being forwarded on WhatsApp is higher for people who have minimal knowledge about the digital world and face language barriers, because of regional languages being commonly used by them.
So, if and when the feature is launched in India, the questions such as would these users understand the functionality of the feature, would they be able to differentiate between reliable & verified sources and unreliable & non-verified sources on web results, or are they familiar with the practice of cross-checking information, and more of such question remain unanswered.