WhatsApp is rolling out an important update for its iOS app. In addition to bug fixes, the latest update adds restrictions on message forwarding that is seen as an important measure to stop the spread of fake news.
Last month, WhatsApp announced that it will be limiting forwarding of messages to just five people. In addition, the quick forward button next to images or videos too have been removed. You will notice these changes when you update the WhatsApp iOS app to version 2.18.81. iOS users can head over to the App Store to download the latest update.
WhatsApp started testing these restrictions in India last month to tackle the spread of fake news and misinformation. India was chosen as the test bed for the feature since India users, as the company notes, are forwarding “more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”.
Besides these two features, WhatsApp also added a ‘Forwarded’ label to messages. This helps users distinguish between messages. The recent cases of mob fury in the country have put a harsh spotlight on WhatsApp, which has been the preferred platform for the spread of misinformation.
Under government pressure, WhatsApp has been taking these measures to tackle the fake news problem. Additionally, the company has also revealed that it is building a team in India, and it will also appoint an India head. The team will focus on tackling the issue through different measures including education and advocacy efforts.
The one aspect where the government and WhatsApp differ is the demand for identifying message originators. The Facebook-owned company however maintains that message attributions would “undermine the private nature” of the platform, and leave it vulnerable potentially to “serious misuse”.