WhatsApp tightens sharing limits to combat misinformation2020-04-07 18:15 by Daniela
WhatsApp is trying to stem the rapid spread of coronavirus misinformation by placing new limits on the number of times a forwarded message can be shared simultaneously.
WhatsApp already marks messages that were forwarded many times with a double arrow, so that the recipient can tell the message did not originate from a close contact. Now, WhatsApp will limit these messages so that they can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.
"We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," WhatsApp said in a blog post Tuesday. "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".
The chat app has been gradually tightening the restrictions on its forwarding function, where a user can easily choose multiple groups or people to receive the message. Two years ago, a user could pass on a forwarded message to 250 groups at once, with each group capable of hosting hundreds of users.
WhatsApp first started limiting viral content in January 2019, when it limited the number of chats where a forwarded message can be shared to five, down from 256. The company says that the move led to a 25 percent decrease in message forwards globally, but it helped keep conversations on the platform "intimate."
The tighter rules won't stop the spread of fake news entirely, and it's not impossible for users to circumnavigate the measures by doctoring media or simply copying and pasting message text, but it's an important step during what are globally worrying times, and further acknowledgement from Facebook that its services do play a role in fostering misinformation.
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