One of the major selling points of WhatsApp is the ease of sending messages to people. Users could forward one message to hundreds of people at a time with just a few clicks. But over time, this feature has aided the broadcast of fake news and hoax. Now, WhatsApp has effected a rule that changes the way forwarded messages are been treated on the platform to fight misinformation and rumours.
The Facebook-owned messaging platform is limiting the number of times a user can forward a message. Messages that have been forwarded 5 or more times will be restricted from being sent to more than one chat (contact) at a time.
This new rule comes as there have been heightened concerns about the spread of misinformation on the coronavirus pandemic via private messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not. 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.WhatsApp.
With over 2 billion users globally, WhatsApp has always had a huge problem of misinformation spreading through its platform. Initially, users could forward messages to as many as 256 people with just a few taps. And because of its end-to-end encryption, it’s almost impossible for WhatsApp or relevant authorities to debunk messages.
The viral circulation of misinformation on the platform has led to more than a dozen deaths in recent years.
This has seen Whatsapp put in place measures to curb the spread of misinformation. WhatsApp began rolling out features to experiment with limits on the number of times a message could be forwarded. Last year, it began limiting the number of forwarded messages a user can initiate at a time to 5. It also added a ‘forwarded’ tag on broadcast messages as well.
Now with the new limit on forwarded messages, it will be strenuous and time tasking to push a message to more people, which will reduce the rate at which misinformation spreads.
However, the new measure seems too sweeping and would not only affect the spread of misinformation but also the sharing of credible and vital information. This, therefore, raises the question, isn’t WhatsApp taking the easy way out by implementing such a measure that is too sweeping?
In other words, in its quest to curb misinformation, is WhatsApp curbing the dissemination of vital and credible information?
The platform is reportedly also testing a feature that will allow users to quickly comb through the web with the text or video they have received for more context.