WhatsApp Limits Forwarded Messages, Curbs Misinformation

WhatsApp stated that they had noted significant change in the forwarded messages since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and wished to limit misinformation.

On Tuesday (April 7), WhatsApp limited forwarded messages to one chat from five chats to reduce misinformation. This was due to a rise in fake messages related to COVID-19 and how to cure it. This limitation has been set for an indefinite period of time.

WhatsApp stated in a blog post that they had made the changes after noting a “significant” change in the forwarded messages since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They wish to keep WhatsApp a “place for personal conversation”. WhatsApp currently have around 2 billion users. They are looking forward to the method working as it has previously reduced these types of messages by 25%.

Originally, messages could be forwarded to 20 chats – however, viral rumours and misinformation being spread through WhatsApp triggered mass beatings and deaths in India. While Facebook and Twitter can moderate such content directly, it isn’t possible on WhatsApp due to end-to-end encryption which doesn’t allow even the app from reading your messages.

Facebook and Twitter have responded to medical misinformation posted in recent months by stopping users from posting misleading information about the COVID-19, as they don’t have end-to-end encryption like WhatsApp. This includes denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments.

WhatsApp is also encouraging people to flag misinformation for fact checking. The app also allows the WHO and national health authorities to share factual information about COVID-19 on the platform using automated accounts.

WhatsApp is not the first platform to take action against misinformation – Google has been working with Ministry of National Health Services to ensure that people get reliable information.

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