WhatsApp messages that have been sent through a chain of five or more people will be identified as ‘highly forwarded’ and will then only be able to be forwarded to a single person.
In an effort to curb the spread of misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic, messaging platform WhatsApp will now place new limits on the forwarding of messages.
According to a report by The Verge, messages that have been sent through a chain of five or more people will be identified as “highly forwarded” and will then only be able to be forwarded to a single person as opposed to the previous limit of 256 people.
“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 organise public moments of support for frontline health workers,” said the company 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.”
While the forwarding feature on the app is not new, WhatsApp has, over the years added ways to make forwarded messages more easily identifiable. The most recent change to the system was the introduction of the double arrows which indicates that a message did not originate from a close contact.
“As a private messaging service, we’ve taken several steps over the years to help keep conversations intimate. For example, we previously set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.”
According to The Verge, these changes come after WhatsApp has come under the spotlight for the way it can be used to spread misinformation.
Last month, CNN and other news organisations found that the app had been used to share a variety of false information about “cures” for Covid-19 and hoaxes about military activity related to the disease.
“In addition to this change, we are working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organisation and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information.
“Together these trusted authorities have sent hundreds of millions of messages directly to people requesting information and advice. You can learn more about these efforts, as well as how to submit potential myths, hoaxes and rumors to fact-checking organisations, on our Coronavirus Information Hub,” concluded WhatsApp.
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