In another move to put a stop to the circulation of spam on its platform, WhatsApp is working on a Suspicious Link Detection feature. The new feature, which is presently said to be under testing, helps users detect suspicious links available within their WhatsApp messages. It is a part of the WhatsApp beta for Android version 2.18.204 and later, though not available for the masses at the initial stage. The latest development hits amidst different measures by the Facebook-owned company to limit the circulation of spam and fake news through the instant messaging app that has over 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide. A previous WhatsApp beta version brought a 'Forwarded' label that was aimed to make a dent in the growth of fake news distribution through the app and help people easily identify forwarded messages.
Leveraging the Suspicious Link Detection feature, WhatsApp analyses the links available in a message to detect a suspicious link, reports WABetaInfo. The messaging app is said to automatically identify whether the link in a received message is redirecting to a fake or alternative website that could potentially harm users. Upon detection of a suspicious link, the message is marked with a Red-coloured label to let users easily understand its behaviour.
The screenshots posted by the WABetaInfo folks highlight that WhatsApp also warns users when they try to open the link with a message that reads, "This link contains unusual characters. It may be trying to appear as another site." It has also been claimed that WhatsApp analyses the link locally. This suggests that the links will not be sent to WhatsApp servers and the user data won't be compromised for sake of detecting suspicious links.
We weren't able to spot the reported Suspicious Link Detection feature on any of our Android devices using the latest WhatsApp beta version 2.18.207. However, since the WABetaInfo team claims that WhatsApp is currently testing the feature, we can expect its arrival at least for WhatsApp beta users sometime in the coming future. It is also reported that with some other improvements, the feature will also get an ability to let users manually report a suspicious link.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp came in the headlines for the massive spread of misinformation that allegedly led to the lynching of a large number of innocents in India. The IT ministry even asked WhatsApp to take preventative actions to restrict the proliferation of fake messages on its platform. The messaging service on its part revealed that it had started taking help from local experts to fight spam and fake news and announced 'research awards' for researchers interested in limiting the circulation of misinformative messages in the country. This was a step in addition to the primary moves such as the 'Forwarded' label and 'Send Messages' group controls to retain WhatsApp's domination in the market of instant messaging apps. Particularly in India, WhatsApp serves over 200 million monthly active users.