WhatsApp, the social messaging giant recently imposed a new restriction on the frequently-forwarded messages in an effort to reduce the flow of fake news and misinformation on its platform about the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Facebook-owned instant messaging app, announced on Tuesday that any message which has been forwarded more than five times will now face a new limit and users will only be able to send it one single person at a time.
Back in 2019, the company implemented the similar restrictions on bulk forwarding limit, when it prevented WhatsApp users from forwarding the message to more than five chats at once. The effort to constrain virality allowed the two-billion-users company to decrease the volume of message forwards globally by 25%.
With text, photo and video-based misinformation is becoming increasingly easier to produce, sharing such widely forwarded messages on WhatsApp and other social media platforms can lead to drastic consequences such as violence, trolling, and a culture of hate.
“Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not,” the company wrote in an official blog post on Tuesday.
“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.”
In addition to these aforementioned steps, the company is constantly working with over 20 national health ministries and governments around the world, including the nonprofit organizations such as NGOs and World Health Organization (WHO), to help users connect with factually correct information.
In light of this, the company has pledged a $1 million grant and created a dedicated Coronavirus Information Hub to tackle the spread of any false news/misinformation concerning the outbreak of the coronavirus which are likely to create panic among the general public. The Indian government also launched a helpdesk bot on WhatsApp last month to fight rumors and spread awareness about the coronavirus pandemic.
To keep WhatsApp more pragmatic and showcase reliable information, the company is testing a new feature that shows a small magnifying glass icon next to frequently forwarded messages and allows users to search them on the web for more context.
The company believes that double-checking these text or video messages before forwarding may help curb the flow of rumors and fake content on the platform.
WhatsApp’s latest effort to impose limits on the bulk message forwarding is considered to be an important step in the ongoing battle against the factually incorrect or misinformation during this unprecedented global crisis.