With a critical examination of the spreading of false or misinformation across the net, WhatsApp comes up with new limits. WhatsApp said on Tuesday it would place a limit on the forwarding of messages.
Private message apps have the potential to spread misinformation, especially concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
Messages sent through a chain of five or more people will be identified as “highly forwarded”. Starting today, such messages can only be forwarded to a single person.
This will reduce the speed with which information moves through the app.
WhatsApp, part of Facebook, said they know many users forward helpful information. This includes videos, memes, reflections or prayers people find meaningful.
Recently, people have also used the app to organize public moments of support for front liners.
However, they’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding. It can be overwhelming to users and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.
The limiting of forwarding aims to slow down the spread of popular or viral messages.
Normally for WhatsApp, users could forward a single message to as many as 256 people with just a few taps. Initially, these messages did not have forward labels.
The end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp makes it almost impossible for authorities to determine who’s using the app in sending them.
This forwarding of hate speech and calls to violence triggered a crisis in India, linking WhatsApp to mob violence. Rema Rajeshwari, a superintendent police in southern Telangana said India is already vulnerable due to religious and caste fault lines.
When you add WhatsApp to the mix, things can easily spiral out of control, he added.
WhatsApp Limiting of Message Forwarding Began Last Year
In 2018, WhatsApp began to test the limiting of message forwarding after a spread of misinformation caused lynchings in India. The Facebook-owned app considered curbing the number of times you can forward messages to multiple chats, citing privacy concerns.
It also began labeling forwarded messages. This indicates when a message is forwarded to someone from another user. A text, video, an image or audio message began to have the forwarded label too.
They are also adding two arrows to show that a message has been repeatedly forwarded.
WhatsApp has taken this move to address its fake news problem. It also includes an offering of cash rewards to researchers studying misinformation spread through the use of the app.
They wrangle local law enforcement and fact-checking organizations to fight fake news propagating through the app.
Last year, forwards were down to 25%, but then came a huge surge in forwarding messages concerning COVID-19. People use the app to share a variety of false information, such as cures for COVID-19.
This includes hoaxes about military activity related to the pandemic.
Also, the company began limiting the number of people you can forward a single message down to five.
The prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, urged people to stop sharing unverified info on Whatsapp groups.
In response, WhatsApp promoted a bot made by the WHO, providing information about the disease vetted by healthcare professionals. More than 10 million people use it.
Moreover, WhatsApp also donated $1 million to the International Fact-Checking Network.