From Tuesday night (10 July) onwards, the WhatsApp messenger application on your phone will have a new feature. Every WhatsApp message you get will tell you if it’s an original post sent by your contact or just a forward.

The messaging app owned by Facebook says it will from now onwards indicate which messages you receive have been forwarded to you and not created by the sender.

“This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else,” says a WhatsApp statement.

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To activate this feature, however, you need to have the latest supported version of WhatsApp on your phone.

“WhatsApp cares deeply about your safety. We encourage you to think before sharing messages that were forwarded. As a reminder, you can report spam or block a contact in one tap and can always reach out to WhatsApp directly for help,” says the company.

WhatsApp message
A message that is just a forward, and not created by the sender, will look like this on your phone screen.

 

Mob lynchings have left at least 27 people dead across nine states in the last one year. After a spate of killings in the last three months, the Government of India recently asked the messaging app to act urgently to stop the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages” on its platform.

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The killings in the last one year have been reported from Maharashtra, Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.

Behind all the fatal attacks were rumours of child kidnappings spread through WhatsApp Message s. The police had said they were finding it hard to convince people that the messages were false. In fact, one of the lynching victims in Tripura was a man who had been hired as an announcer by the state authorities to dispel rumours about child-lifters.

In its reply to the Union Ministry of Information and Technology, WhatsApp had said it was “horrified by these terrible acts of violence”, and called the situation a “challenge that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together”.

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On Tuesday, WhatsApp published a full-page advertisement in some newspapers as part of its new campaign to fight misinformation and fake news.

In the advertisement, the messaging app listed 10 points for its users to go through to tackle misinformation.

“We are starting an education campaign in India on how to spot fake news and rumours. Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages. We will build on these efforts,” it said.

The new feature to be rolled out from 11 July, which will allow users to know when a message is just a forward and not an original post, is part of this campaign.