WhatsApp is limiting the number of times a message can be forwarded to contacts in an effort to curb the spread of misinformation. Starting today, you can only forward one message five times on the Facebook owned app. The restriction has been made due to frequent forwarding of false Covid-19 messages.
If you receive a message which has been forwarded up to or more than five times, you can only send it to a single chat at a time. In the previous limit imposed last year, one message could be sent up to a maximum of five people at a time, more than once.
Although the change does not completely stop the dissemination of forwarded messages, the rule aims to slow down the process as one will have to keep sending a new message to a single chat.
False messages have become prevalent especially since the on-set of the Coronavirus pandemic. One such falsehood that has been shared widely on whatsApp is the claim that the Covid-19 is associated with the new 5G technology. This has led to vandalism of more than 20 phone masts in the past week alone.
‘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” said a whatsApp spokesperson via blog on Tuesday morning.
“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”
WhatsApp works with an encryption which means the company cannot see the messages sent across contacts. This prevents them from using the same moderation techniques applied on Facebook and twitter where harmful posts are removed or flagged down.
However, the company works by introducing friction in the messaging app and providing information to let users know whether the information is from a trustworthy source. Forwarded messages are indicated and marked with a double arrow icon.
What makes the messaging particularly dangerous is the fact that forwarded messages can come with approval from trustworthy contacts such as family. Until 2018, users were able to forward information to 250 groups at once. This was reduced to 20 on the same year, five in 2019 and now, one. The measures have reduced forwarding of messages by 25% globally.
WhatsApp however notes that not all forwarding is bad. “We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes and reflections or prayers that they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers.