WhatsApp is working on introducing new changes to the app to combat the problem of misinformation and fake news that a small segment of its users is actively engaging in. Weeks after introducing the “Forwarded” label on the messages that are simply sent forward to a WhatsApp conversation from another, the company has announced that it is making more changes to the feature. This is likely to be an attempt to stop people from using WhatsApp as a tool to spread misinformation that has lead to violence and physical harm in India. WhatsApp shared the details about these new changes in a post on its official blog.
According to the blog post, the company is making changes to the forward feature on the app by “launching a test to limit forwarding.” This limit will apply to everyone using the platform and specifically for India, the company will “also test a lower limit” which will allow users to forward any message to up to 5 chats at one time. As WhatsApp noted in the post, the reason to test “a lower limit” to forwarding message is that Indian users are forwarding “more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”.
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In addition to that, the company will also “remove the quick forward button” that is next to the media messages. This means that users will have to either long press on the message to select it and manually forward it or they will have to download it and then manually forward it using the media picker.
It seems that WhatsApp is hoping that this additional effort may deter some of the population that is habitual about using the quick forward button to forward the misinformation without cross-checking or realizing the consequences of any incorrect information. This comes weeks after the company posted advertisements in almost all national newspapers informing users about fake and incorrect news and the responsibility of ensuring that they are not sharing incorrect facts or statements on the platform.
This also comes almost a day after reports emerged that WhatsApp is working “with over half a dozen partners” in the country to design a “digital literacy programme” in an effort to educate its users on how to spot fake news.