WhatsApp has decided to place limits on forwarding messages, due to the heightened scrutiny on the potential of private message apps to spread misinformation regarding coronavirus pandemic.
From today, messages that are identified as “highly forwarded” and are sent via a chain of 5 or more people can just be forwarded to a single person.
The company in a blog post said, “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 a personal conversation.”
Initially it was easier for users to forward WhatsApp messages to as many as 256 people. But then in 2018, WhatsApp started experimenting limits on the number of times a message can be forwarded. Also, it started labeling forward message. Two arrows displayed a message that has been repeatedly forwarded.
Last year, WhatsApp added a limit to the number of people a single message can be forwarded to five. It is just a soft limit. You are no prevent to forward the same message again and again to different people. However, this step by WhatsApp helped in slowing down the rate of forwarding overall.
But now due to coronavirus pandemic, WhatsApp has again come to spotlight in the spread of misinformation. Even the prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, urged people to “please stop sharing unverified info on Whatsapp groups.”
Thus, as a response, WhatsApp promoted a bot made by the World Health Organization that provides information about coronavirus vetted by healthcare professionals.