The spread of misinformation on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other social media platforms became a focal point of discussion last year. To combat fake news on its chat platform, WhatsApp started releasing ads to make users more aware and cautious towards the spread of misinformation. One of the measures WhatsApp introduced to curb the spread of rumours was limit the forward feature to just five chats. This feature was first rolled out to the Indian users in July last year, and now the company is taking it internationally. The forward limit will be released first to the Android users via an update this week, followed by the iPhone users.
WhatsApp says that the decision to limit forward messages to five chats has been taken globally after evaluating user feedback. Moving forward, all WhatsApp users on the latest version, no matter the platform, will only be able to forward messages to a maximum of five people at once. These changes come as part of WhatsApp's aim to maintain the image of a 'private messaging app' rather than one infamous for the spreading of fake news.
"WhatsApp carefully evaluated this test and listened to user feedback over a six-month period. The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world. Starting today, all users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once, which will help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts. We'll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience, and over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content," the company notes.
WhatsApp set restrictions to the forward feature in July last year after reports of fake news on the messaging platform causing communal tension in certain parts of India started surfacing. At that time, WhatsApp had said that use of the app in such a way violates its terms of service and that it would actively work on preventing such actions. The company also claimed that Indian users forward more messages and videos than any other market in the world.
Updating WhatsApp to the latest version will enable this restriction, and it's a welcome start measure to curb the spread of fake news via the messaging platform. Last year, to combat the issue, the company also rolled out 'Suspicious Link Indicator' feature that locally detects suspicious links and notifies the recipient before they are opened. Another disclaimer pops up even after the user clicks on such links. This helps users easily identify fake and factual news pieces
We discussed what WhatsApp absolutely needs to do in 2019, on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.