Last month, WhatsApp had launched a Health Alert service to provide accurate information related to coronavirus. The messaging platform usually struggles with the spread of misinformation. To tackle this issue, the Facebook-owned company is imposing a restriction on the forwarding of messages. Last January, WhatsApp had set global limits on forwarding messages to five people at a time. Today, the company has further limited frequently forwarded messages to only one chat at a time. This limit kicks in if a message has been forwarded five or more times. The latest move by WhatsApp is aimed to reduce the speed and ease of spreading misinformation on the messaging platform.
Repeatedly forwarded messages are shown with two arrows and a ‘forwarded’ label. WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption makes it difficult for authorities to determine who spreads fake information and related messages.
In a blog post, the Facebook-owned company said “We know that many users forward useful information, as well as fun videos, memes, thoughts or prayers they find meaningful. But nowadays we see a huge increase in the number of messages forwarded, about which users have told us that by reading such messages, people may be overloaded and thereby spread misinformation. We think it’s important to reduce the transmission of these messages in order to maintain WhatsApp as a place for personal interaction.
WhatsApp has also been working on testing a feature on its beta version that enables users to find out more information about forwarded messages. The idea involves a magnifying glass icon next to the forwarded message, giving users the option to send that message to a web search where they can find news results and other sources of information. The messaging service says that “Double-checking these messages before forwarding may help reduce the spread of rumors. This feature is currently in testing and we’ll keep you updated on next steps.”
The Indian Government also launched MyGov Corona Helpdesk bot on WhatsApp last month. Users can get credible and accurate information about coronavirus across the country in both English and specific regional languages.