WhatsApp now limiting ‘frequent’ forwards to one per chat to fight coronavirus fake news

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Updated: Apr 07, 2020 1:38 PM

WhatsApp notes that not all forwarding is ‘bad’ but these are really desperate times and it’s also aware how its platform is being used for rampant spread of coronavirus misinformation.

whatsappThe new limit on frequently forwarded messages is aimed at constraining ‘virality.’ (Photo credit: Reuters)

Facebook-owned WhatsApp will now limit all users to forward a message only once per chat, in a bid to fight the growing menace of coronavirus fake news. There is a catch though. The limit applies only to what WhatsApp calls ‘frequently’ forwarded messages.

WhatsApp will allow users to forward a given message up to five times, as is usually the case. But once the given message has been forwarded up to five times (or more), WhatsApp’s new forward ‘limit’ will come into effect. This essentially means, users will not be able to forward a message that has already been forwarded five times (or more), more than once.

WhatsApp notes that not all forwarding is ‘bad’ but these are really desperate times and it’s also aware how its platform is being used for rampant spread of coronavirus misinformation. The new limit on frequently forwarded messages is aimed at constraining ‘virality.’

“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,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

WhatsApp initially allowed users to forward a message up to 256 times. Over the years, that limit was brought down — to five times, as of now. Over the years, WhatsApp has also started labelling forwards so users are aware what they’re dealing with – this should also be treated as a warning signal to be careful about the content inside the message and not falling for fake news. It is still possible to ‘spread’ a message through WhatsApp groups though, which is something that WhatsApp still needs to work on. It isn’t immediately clear if the new forward limit would impact said WhatsApp groups propagating misinformation to a larger community as a whole. But at least, it’s a start.

WhatsApp has also somewhat confirmed ongoing reports that it is working on a feature that would allow users to cross-check the authenticity of a message — preferably a forward — on Google before passing it on to others. “That idea involves displaying a magnifying glass icon next to these frequently forwarded messages, giving users the option to send that message to a web search where they can find news results or other sources of information. Double-checking these messages before forwarding may help reduce the spread of rumors,” WhatsApp said, adding that the feature is currently in testing.

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