WhatsApp limiting forward message: Curtailing misinformation spread or not?

Where everyone was worrying about the fake information being spread out on Facebook and Twitter, nobody thought that WhatsApp might be the culprit as well!

WhatsApp is an encrypted app, therefore, getting exact numbers of misinformation campaigns is not possible.

To study the spread of misinformation through WhatsApp, Fabrício Benevenuto at the Federal University of Minas Gerais studied several public groups to come to a conclusion. The researcher joined several public groups on WhatsApp, where many images and content were shared on a daily basis. They analyzed around six million messages in India, Brazil, and Indonesia for their study.

Upon investigating WhatsApp, the researcher branded WhatsApp as a key app to spread misinformation. According to the statistics, 80% of the images shared on WhatsApp stopped within two days of the election, whereas, few were found on the groups even after two months.

To slow down the spread of misinformation, WhatsApp has limited message forwarding on to only 5 groups from 256. WhatsApp is the one that has significantly influenced the elections in India, Brazil, and Indonesia through the spread of misinformation.

Political figures and other influencers communicate with people through these Whatsapp groups where they can easily send the message to multiple people at a time.

After limiting message forwarding, the researchers had no access to public groups and therefore, they ran simulations on the already collected data. As per slowing down message forwarding, this test has shown a 25% decrease in the overall spread of misinformation on WhatsApp. Where viral posts were reaching people through these public groups in 5 days, it now took around 50 days.

These stats are good considering how good they curtail the spread of misinformation on WhatsApp, however, it is still there. So, let’s hope for the best if WhatsApp can better control this issue!

Read next: WhatsApp’s New Upgrade: Share WhatsApp Stories on Facebook with Just a Tap
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