WhatsApp in an effort to combat spam, spoofing and phishing on its platform had recently started testing the Suspicious Link Indicator feature in Android beta version 2.18.204. However, this testing was limited to a very small number of beta users. Now, WhatsApp has rolled out the Suspicious Link Indicator feature to all users on Android beta starting version 2.18.221. Along with this, WhatsApp has set up a FAQ page on its website, detailing how the feature works.
WhatsApp beta on Android 2.18.221 has the ability to tag a ‘Suspicious Link’ whenever a contact sends one to you (first spotted by WABetaInfo). This update is expected to warn unknowing users of a suspicious link before they open it. WhatsApp will also reportedly alert the user once again by looking for unusual characters if they try to open the link. Two options, Open Link and Go Back, will be provided. The suspicious character is highlighted in the dialogue box that appears when you try to open the link. The new Suspicious Link Detection feature isn’t currently available on iOS and Windows Phone but will be rolled out in future updates.
In the FAQ page, WhatsApp says, “This indicator may appear when a link contains a combination of characters that is considered unusual. Spammers may use these character combinations to trick you into tapping on links that appear to go to a legitimate website, but actually take you to a malicious site.” The company also says the links are checked automatically, and the message data is not seen by it due to end-to-end encryption, first announced in November of 2014.
While this new feature will act as a measure against phishing, spoofing, and possibly even spam, it may not be as effective in combating fake news, which is a huge problem for WhatsApp at the moment. There are several websites which do not have any special characters in the URL but are known for spreading conspiracy theories and unverified or altogether false stories as legitimate news.
Earlier this week, WhatsApp announced that it is planning to limit message forwarding capabilities for Indian users in the wake of mob incidents in the country. The plan includes a lower limit of 5 messages and the removal of the “quick forward” shortcut from media messages. The company also claimed that Indian users forward more messages and videos than any other market in the world.