WhatsApp limits Forwards to one chat at a time to fight coronavirus fake info

In a bid to curb misinformation, WhatsApp on Tuesday announced that it has imposed a limit on the forwarding of messages on the app. From today, the messages that have been classified as frequently forwarded messages or sent over five times can now be forwarded to a single chat at a time. The move has been undertaken by the Facebook-owned messaging app to reduce the spread of fake information through the platform.

“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 said in a blog post.

In 2019, WhatsApp labeled the messages that were forwarded from one chat to many with double arrows to let the receiver know that the messages are not original but forwarded. The company had also set “limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.” Earlier, the users could forward a single message to as many as 256 contacts but later when the limit was imposed, people couldn’t do so.

Of course forwarding messages is not bad but if you do not use it without verifying the sources, it can give rise to panicky situations. Some people out of habit, wake up every morning and forward a series of messages to their friends and relatives without even going into the details of the messages they are forwarding.

Days before the 21-day lockdown was announced in India, people rushed to the grocery stores to hoard essential goods and items, completely ignoring the social distancing thing they were advised to follow. This happened because some WhatsApp forwards claimed that groceries would become extinct and supplies would be stopped once the lockdown is announced. Whereas the government time and again made it clear to the citizens that the essential items will be made available to them and there will be no shortage there.

Some messages claiming that animals can also spread coronavirus led to many people abandoning their well-bred pets. However, there was no official word about the same by the World Health Organisation. The least the pet parents could do before abandoning their pets was consult a doctor before doing so. Some messages claiming fake treatments to COVID-19 was being circulated on the messaging app.

These were just a few instances of how fake messages on WhatsApp can wreak havoc in one’s life. There have been incidents of mob violence too in India due to the forwards.

The Facebook-owned messaging app is also working on a feature that would allow users to verify the messages they received as forwards. Beside every frequently forwarded message, a search icon will be placed and once you click on it, it will take you to Google search to verify whether the message is true or false. The company is still working on it and there has not been any announcement about its official rollout.

WhatsApp has also partnered with various NGOs and even the World Health Organisation to provide accurate information to its users.

Source: India Today

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