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WhatsApp puts new limit on forwarded messages to fight spread of misinformation

WhatsApp had recently introduced an option to verify forwarded messages. Now, it is limiting the number of times a message can be forwarded by users.

  • Published: April 7, 2020 3:35 PM IST

WhatsApp is taking further steps to make it difficult to spread misinformation about coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the Facebook-owned social messaging platform announced that it would place new limits on the number of forwarded messages. WhatsApp says messages identified as “highly forwarded” can only be forwarded to a single person. This number is identified by seeing whether a message has been sent through a chain of five or more people. Also Read - 5 best WhatsApp features you should be aware of in 2020

The messaging service had previously limited the number of forwarded messages to five people. Now, it is limiting the spread of misinformation further with the new restriction. This move will reduce the dispatch of information across WhatsApp groups and individual accounts. The announcement comes just weeks after WhatsApp added the option to verify authenticity of a message with a dedicated search button. The button appears every time a message was forwarded to its users by some. Also Read - WhatsApp to add Expiring messages, multiple-device features: Check full details

WhatsApp adds new limit to forwarded messages

“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers,” the company said in a blog post. “However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.” Also Read - Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp back to normal after outage

WhatsApp has become the weakest link in Facebook’s effort to combat the spread of misinformation. With heightened scrutiny of its services, WhatsApp is taking new efforts to limit spread of misinformation. WhatsApp allows its users to create groups with as many as 256 people. This allows users to share information across a wide group of people with just a few taps. As soon as this gained traction, WhatsApp noticed that groups are predominantly the place where misinformation is widely shared.

Since the messages are end-to-end encrypted, neither WhatsApp nor authorities can take a look at who is sharing these false information. As an effort to combat, WhatsApp first added a label called forwards. In 2018, the Facebook-owned service started experimenting with limits on the number of times a message can be forwarded by a user. Further, it added two arrows to denote that a particular message has been repeatedly forwarded. Last year, it limited the number of forwards to five people and now has reduced that number to one. It may not be enough but it is a step in the right direction.

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  • Published Date: April 7, 2020 3:35 PM IST