WhatsApp Limits Users to 5 Shares at a Time, But Will That Really Curb the Spread of Fake News?

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In an attempt to curb the rapid spread of fake news, Popular messaging platform, WhatsApp is rolling out an update that will limit the number of times a user can forward a message to 5.

https://twitter.com/stephen_mukisa/status/1087462534792310785

Before this new update, a WhatsApp user could forward a message to 20 individuals or groups. But in an attempt to check the spread of fake news, manipulated photos, videos without context, and audio hoaxes this new measure was put in place.

This check was first introduced in India last year after mob killings were triggered by false WhatsApp messages. Following positive user feedback, WhatsApp decided to go global with it. According to Reuters, the five time forwarding limit is being implemented across the world starting from yesterday.

“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today.”


Victoria Grand, WhatsApp Vice President for policy and communications

This update may likely not cause significant changes for casual users of the platform, but it could be for those who use the platform as a primary source of information and news sharing. They would now be limited as regards sharing of news via the platform as the process would become more tedious and time consuming.

But Will That Really Curb the Spread of Fake News?

With around 1.5 billion users, the Facebook owned platform has been home to many untraceable fake news. But the app’s end-to-end encryption allows its users share contents through private channels beyond the oversight of the platform itself.

But initiatives such as this limit could help curb the spread of misinformation on the app, although it may not be as limiting as it sounds.

https://twitter.com/Nangula_Sylvia/status/1087583947851223047

These messages can still be forwarded to groups with large number of participants (of up to 256 people). This means that a forwarded fake news can still reach hundreds of people (approximately 1280 people) at once despite the 5 time limit.

Furthermore, the sweeping nature of the update also means the spread of important and urgent news, maybe even emergencies will be stunted.

According to reports, the limit reduced forwarded messages by 25% during a 6 month test period by the platform.

Wall Street Journal

The new update would first be available to Android users, while Apple’s iOS version would follow shortly.


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