Facebook-owned social media messaging platform WhatsApp stated on Tuesday that it will impose new limits on forwarding messages in an attempt to curb the spread of misinformation and retain the application’s original purpose of personal conversation.
From 7 April onwards, the company will categorise any messages as “highly forwarded” if a given message is shared five or more times. As per the new rules, a "highly forwarded" message will not be able to be forwarded to more than a single user at a time.
“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”, WhatsApp said in a blog post on Tuesday.
Earlier, users of the application were able to forward a single message to 256 people. The limit on forwarding has been bought down over the years.
“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 a personal conversation”.
The moderation of data shared through the application has also been prevented due to the end-to-end encryption feature of WhatsApp.
But the new limit, imposed by recognising highly forwarded messages, will to a certain extent constrain the rampant spread of misinformation.
The Indian government has written a letter to all social media platforms to curb the fake news that has been spreading during the time of the pandemic. India's Ministry of Information Technology has advised the global tech giants to delete the fake news or provocative messages immediately.
Authorities in India have launched a massive campaign to bust fake news, as WhatsApp groups have lately been flooded with messages encouraging unscientific ways to fight COVID-19.