Taking heed of the growing incidents of unsolicited messages being shared on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned company is all set to roll out a new feature which will help in checking the misuse of the platform. The feature, called 'Suspicious Link Detection,' is currently in testing and will be rolled out in the near future.
The feature is presently available on the 2.18.204 beta version of WhatsApp. Whenever a user receives a link to a third party website, WhatsApp will conduct a background check to verify the authenticity of the website and will alert the user if it identifies something suspicious.
Upon identifying a dubious website, WhatsApp will mark it with a red label, which will highlight that the message is either spam or will redirect to a fake website. Nevertheless, if the user still proceeds to open the link, WhatsApp will alert him/her one final time that the link is possibly a suspicious link.
Additionally, there are other measures WhatsApp is taking to curb the misuse of the platform, namely:
a) A user can block an irksome contact. Upon receipt of a message from an unknown source, WhatsApp provides an option to either block or add the contact.
b) Group administrators can allow or restrict other members from sending messages in a group.
c) The "Forwarded" label allows users to identify whether the message has been written or forwarded.
WhatsApp will also be awarding $50,000 to independent researchers who study the spread of false propaganda on the communication platform and highlight measures for curtailing the same. The company has established a 'WhatsApp Research Awards for Social Science and Misinformation' which states, "WhatsApp is commissioning a competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp. 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." The monetary award is unrestricted, which implies that the awardee may utilize the prize amount for any cause.
Recently, the Government of India had instructed WhatsApp to take swift measures to prevent the spreading of "irresponsible and explosive messages" through its platform. On July 1, five people were lynched to death in Dhule district of Maharashtra by villagers who suspected the deceased of being child-lifters. WhatsApp responded to the Government by stating that it is horrified by the terrible acts of violence perpetrated by people influenced by false messages shared on the platform. It further outlined steps to curtail such abuse, which include product controls, digital literacy, and fact-checking.