21 April 2020
As Coronavirus outbreak has spread globally, people are going online to look for information like symptoms, prevention measures, and the latest status on the number of cases. It has resulted in many users coming across false information without even knowing about it which they end up sharing further. This is exactly what WhatsApp wants to tackle and has released two new features with the goal of reducing misinformation spreading.
The first feature is providing an official World Health Organization (WHO) chatbot on WhatsApp. It is available like any other business account on the instant messenger and can be identified through the Green verified tick mark. A conversation can be started by visiting the link or by sending "Hi" to +41 22 501 75 96 on WhatsApp. Since it is a chatbot, there will not be an actual human reading and replying to texts but there will be preset texts with relevant information. A user will simply need to send an appropriate number/emoji (as mentioned in the WHO text) to get details.
The next WhatsApp feature is related to checking the authenticity of Coronavirus-related messages that are getting forwarded on a daily basis. Many of these messages are filled with wrong information that many users tend to believe. This new feature is basically a search icon next to forwarded messages that can be tapped for performing a quick Google search. It will automatically copy all of the text message content and paste it in the Google search bar. Users can then browse through search results to get a better idea about the message and its context.
While WHO chatbot is available for all WhatsApp users regardless of the app version, the search functionality is currently limited to select beta testers. WhatsApp has said that it is in the process of expanding the later to more users but as of now, it is part of a server-side change. Your best bet to get the search feature is to ensure that you are running the latest app version on your device.