WhatsApp’s users will only be able to forward messages to 20 people, as the Facebook-owned messaging service attempts to crack down on the viral spread of hateful misinformation.
The messaging service is limiting user messaging in an attempt to cut down on spam, fake news, and misinformation on the platform. The company has been updating its messenger to put a stop to false information being transferred through messages, as well as adding labels which indicate when a message has been forwarded.
WhatsApp faces a very different challenge when it comes to tackling misinformation than that faced by public sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Messages sent over the platform are end-to-end encrypted, which means that WhatsApp is technologically incapable of reading them – or performing any other scanning, automated or human-driven.
The company has made other changes in an attempt to slow the spread of viral falsehoods, such as making it clear that a forwarded message from a friend or family member did not originate with them.
But now Whatsapp is placing messages on hold if they are then forwarded onto other chats from the same user. The limit is set to stop Whatsapp users from forwarding messages to more than 20 groups worldwide.
The change comes at a time where technology companies are increasingly under pressure to address the fake news problem. Several major social media companies are now having to revise how users interact with their app in order to cut out users who share or create fake news.
Here is Whatsapp’s full statement: “We built WhatsApp as a private messaging app – a simple, secure, and reliable way to communicate with friends and family. And as we’ve added new features, we’ve been careful to try and keep that feeling of intimacy, which people say they love.
The service is being removed from Whatsapp users as a trial.
“A few years back we added a feature to WhatsApp that lets you forward a message to multiple chats at once.
“Today, we’re launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp. In India – where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world – we’ll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once and we’ll remove the quick forward button next to media messages.
“We believe that these changes – which we’ll continue to evaluate – will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app.
“We are deeply committed to your safety and privacy which is why WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, and we’ll continue to improve our app with features like this one.”