WhatsApp sees 70% drop in spread of viral messages weeks after limiting chat forwards

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Updated: April 27, 2020 8:27:38 PM

The goal is essentially to curb the spread of misinformation, but there’s no way to find out how much of the quoted 70% figure amounts to fake news or misinformation.

whatsappAs of the beginning of April, WhatsApp has been limiting all users to forward a message only once per chat globally. (Photo credit: Reuters)

WhatsApp’s plan to limit frequent forwards seems to be paying off well as the Facebook-owned company has confirmed that it’s seeing a 70% drop in the spread of viral messages on the platform since the announcement. As of the beginning of April, WhatsApp has been limiting all users to forward a message only once per chat globally, in a bid to fight the growing menace of coronavirus-related fake news on the platform . The limit applies only to what WhatsApp calls “frequently” forwarded messages though. “This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations,” 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 today. WhatsApp still allows users to forward a given message up to five times, but once the given message has been forwarded up to five times (or more), WhatsApp’s new forward “limit” comes into effect. This means users can’t forward a message that has already been forwarded five times (or more), more than once. The logic behind this is that not all forwarding is “bad” but at the same time, there’s also a need to curb constraining “virality.”

The goal is essentially to curb the spread of misinformation, but there’s no way to find out how much of the quoted 70% figure amounts to fake news or misinformation. This is because all WhatsApp chats are end-to-end encrypted making it “literally” impossible for the company to know the content of these supposed viral messages.

It is still possible to spread a message, fake or otherwise, through WhatsApp groups though, which is something that WhatsApp still needs to work on. There’s currently no way to limit a WhatsApp group from spreading a piece of information, with up to 256 people, all in one go, which are one of the biggest sources of fake news or misinformation in markets like India.

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

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