With a view to limit the circulation of fake news and misinformation through its platform, WhatsApp on Tuesday narrowed down the limit of forwarding messages to one chat at a time. This comes as an update to the existing limit that was allowing users to forward a message for up to five times. The new move by the Facebook-owned company is aimed to help slow the spread of misinformation during the coronavirus outbreak that’s impacting people worldwide. WhatsApp was recently also spotted offering a feature to let users verify forwarded messages online.
Since many people are staying at home due to the coronavirus spread and lockdowns imposed in several countries including India, WhatsApp forwards have increased to new levels. The company also noted in a blog post that it had seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding that are counted as “overwhelming” by users and “can contribute to the spread of misinformation”. Thus, it makes sense for WhatsApp to limit forwards to one chat at a time.
The new update is meant to restrict users from forwarding a message to more than one user at once. However, this doesn’t mean that users won’t be able to forward messages to multiple users at all. They can still copy a message and paste in the textbox of various chats. Users can also use the forward option multiple times to send a single message to various users.
That being said, the change is a welcome step as it would certainly put some impact on the circulation of fake news, which is quite common on the instant messaging platform thanks to its expanded user base of more than two billion users globally — with over 400 million users in India alone.
The latest update is the extension to the existing limit of five forwards at once that WhatsApp initially brought to India in August 2018 and then expanded to global markets in January last year. That previous change is claimed to have resulted in a 25 percent decrease in message forwards globally at the time. The messaging app also added a “Frequently Forwarded” message label in August last year to help users easily identify messages that didn’t originate from a close contact.
Last month, WhatsApp was spotted testing the feature that lets users verify the content of the forwarded messages by searching it online. A magnifying glass icon is available next to the frequently forwarded messages on some of the recent WhatsApp beta versions that allows users to do a Web search and ascertain the authenticity of such messages.
A recent report by consulting firm Kantar highlighted that WhatsApp saw a 40 percent increase in its usage due to the COVID-19 spread. The app was found to have received the “greatest gains” in usage among other social media apps.