WhatsApp developers want to tackle fake news using a familiar technique: reverse image search. A new report from WABetaInfo claims that a new beta version of WhatsApp comes with an in-app web browser that can reverse-search a photo sent within a chat so the user can try to figure out where they really came from.
How WhatsApp Plans To Stop Fake News
Whether this technique can help the Facebook-owned app thwart fake news remains to be seen. At the very least, it's a helpful feature that's been missing for some time.
The in-app browser likely won't be used for much else. Users won't even be able to take screenshots or record video while using it, WaBetaInfo notes.
As such, its existence will serve mainly its reverse image search functionalities, which will be a lot useful especially in the context of WhatsApp, where viral photos spread like wildfire without ample validation of their legitimacy. Users can select an image, upload it to Google, then see where else it's shown up. This in and of itself is a wobbly technique to combat fake news, especially when new users have to actually go through all the effort to look an image up.
The Fight Against Fake News
WhatsApp has taken a number of steps to stop the spread of fake news within its platform. Now, it already labels forwarded messages and has put limits on message forwarding after viral rumors of child abductions and child traffickers in India became associated with a handful of deaths. Other steps it's taken include offering monetary reaps for researchers who study the spread of fake news through WhatsApp and working directly with local authorities and fact-checkers.
Fake news is also endemic in Facebook, WhatsApp's parent company, which is why it's taken a number of steps to address the issue, including "disputed" tags for news items that have yet to be verified.