NEWS UPDATE: WhatsApp adds new limits on forwarding of viral messages

Popular messages can now be forward to a single person, down from five

With the potential of private messaging apps to spread misinformation related to coronavirus pandemic, WhatsApp said it would place new limits on forwarded messages. From now on messages that have been identified as “highly forwarded” (sent through a chain of five or more people) can only be forwarded to a single person. It is designed to reduce the speed with which information is spread through the WhatsApp, presenting truth and fiction on a more even footing.

“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers,” the company, which is part of Facebook, said in a blog post. “However, 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.”

It was easy for users to forward a single message to as many as 256 people with just a few taps. Initially these messages were not labelled as forwards, and the end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp could make it almost impossible for authorities to determine who might be using the app to spread hate speech or calls to violence.

Cut to 2018, the company began to experiment with the limits on the number of times a message could be forwarded. It also began labeling forwarded massages for the first time and adding two arrows to show that the message has been forwarded many times. Then the company began limiting the number of people you can forward a single message to five.

Anyways, that doesn’t prevent you from forwarding the same message again and again to different people. But it helped to slow the rate of forwarding overall, in the past year WhatsApp said forwards are down 25% around the globe.

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