WhatsApp Limits The Forwarding Of A Message To Only One Person At A Time To Slow Down The Spread Of Misinformation

  • The platform announced to put new limits to forwarded messages after a mass increase in the spread of the coronavirus misinformation.
  • Previously, you could forward a single message to up to 256 users at a time, but the company has been putting limits on this feature over time.
  • WhatsApp experiencing surged traffic during these days could potentially help the misinformation to spread even more and here are the steps the company is taking to curb the spread of this misinformation.

Whatapp announced to put a limit on the forwarding of the messages on Tuesday after there was an increased forwarding of the messages containing the coronavirus misinformation. If a message has been forwarded by a chain of 5 users, it will be identified as a ‘highly forwarded’ message by the company’s server and then the user will only be able to forward this message to only one person. The new policy will be implemented moving forward and aims to create friction to lower the speed with which data moves across the platform.

The Facebook-owned company stated in its blog post that they know their users forward messages containing useful information, memes, entertainment content, or meaningful prayers and quotes. The users have also organized public moments in recent weeks to support the frontline health officials who are combating the coronavirus. But the platform stated that they have also seen a huge rise in the distribution of coronavirus fake news and it is important to slow down its speed so the platform will continue to be a better place of private discussion for the users.

Earlier, it was easy for the users to forward a message to up to 256 people with only a few taps and these messages also not indicated to be forwarded. It was almost unattainable for the platform to induce who might be spreading hate speech across the platform due to the end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp. This issue once was the reason for a crisis in India in which the said platform was linked to anarchy.

The platform tested to put a limit on the number of times a message could be forwarded for the first time in 2018. The company placed two arrows to indicate a message was forwarded and the platform reduced the number of people a message could be forward down to 5 users in 2019 which is now dragged down to only one user.

This soft limit still allows you to forward a message to as many people as you want to but you will have to send the message over and over again to different contacts on your WhatsApp. According to the company, this friction is an effective measure to reduce the speed with which the messages spread across the platform and there was a decrease of 25% in the forward globally during the last year.

Several studies and news publications have raised their concerns regarding fake news on Whatsapp and it appears the Facebook-owned app has started to listen to some of its critics. Recently, Whatsapp integrated a search button to cross check the content of a message in Google search, the messaging platform also facilitated a bot that provides verified information about COVID-19 and donated $1 million to the IFCN, which are indeed a good small step towards fact-checking content from the web. Yet, Whatsapp needs to implement better and more smart content moderation strategies to effectively deal with the misinformation propaganda.



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