WhatsApp limits forwarded messages to stop the spread of fake news

WhatsApp has announced a move to limit forwarded messages as it seeks to limit its role in the spread of fake news around the current global situation and other issues. 

There’s a new limit so that so-called “frequently forwarded messages” can only be forwarded to one chat at a time. This does not include messages that you’ve created or have been created by close contacts and is aimed primarily at messages that are going viral. 

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Last year, the app began indicating to users messages that have been forwarded many times using a “double arrow” icon to indicate they did not originate from a close contact and have been shared multiple times – the kind of messages that rapidly spread rumours and fake news. 

WhatsApp says it bans two million accounts per month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages – after all, it is designed to be a personal messaging app. When it previously introduced a limit on forwarding to five chats at-a-time in mid-2018, the move saw a 25 percent reduction in forwarded messages. 

In announcing the move, the WhatsApp blog makes it clear that forwarding generally isn’t bad. “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.

“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 also says it has been working on a beta release of its app that can better inform users about oft-forwarded messages – enabling them to search for the message on the web. This feature is in testing currently. 

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