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WhatsApp cuts down on the limit for sharing ‘highly forwarded’ messages

When the spread of misinformation is a bigger problem than the virus

Popular messaging platform WhatsApp was designed to be a personal messaging app. But in the past few years, it has been the breaking point for misinformation, especially in a country like India, where innocent people have been killed over fake news.

Since fake news and misinformation never takes a break, especially during the ongoing pandemic, it makes sense for WhatsApp to take control in such times and curb the spread of messages that spread the bad stuff.

Facebook owned WhatsApp has put up a blog post claiming that it has placed limits on forwarding messages. Starting Wednesday, those messages that have been tagged as “highly forwarded” can only be shared with one person or one chat at a time, which creates a kind of friction to slow down the spread of fake news.

The previous limit for viral messages was set to five just last year, before which it was quite easy to forward messages to up to 256 users in a go. But after bringing down the numbers over the years, WhatsApp claims that it has seen a 25% decrease in total message forwards globally.

WhatsApp understands that a lot of people, from doctors to teachers, use the platform to communicate with one another in isolation, so it has kept all conversations private with end-to-end encryption. Forwards are not a bad thing, of course, and the platform mentioned in its post that many users “forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful.”

Apart from reducing the forwarding limit, WhatsApp, in the same post, also mentioned that it is working with NGOs, governments, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and others to connect people with accurate information.