To combat misinformation, WhatsApp will limit the forwarding of messages
This is a smart move from the company.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has been plagued by a steady wave of misinformation. If not controlled properly, this misinformation could end us, proving more deadly than the infectious virus on the loose. Just yesterday in the U.K, we saw several cell towers set on fire and engineers getting harassed amid the spread of an online conspiracy theory that linked 5G technology with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
To curve this wave of misinformation, WhatsApp is taking a stand. The instant messaging service has decided to impose restrictions on how many times a message can be shared on its application to prevent the spread of false information, adding fuel to the fire of the pandemic.
The company released a statement stating that any message that has been forwarded five or more times will now face a restriction in terms of how many people you can forward that message to, reducing the number to only one contact (or one chat) at a time. This change is rolling out worldwide today.
This isn’t the first time WhatsApp has limited the number of people you can forward a message to. Last year, WhatsApp restricted users from forwarding a message to more than 5 users at a time, this led to a 25% drop in message forwards globally.
Obviously, this new WhatsApp limit does raise some new questions
The main one is, “What if the message isn’t misinformation, just like a funny video or meme?”
As we all know, WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption for users, meaning they cannot read any of the messages but instead rely on the metadata of a message to measure its spread. The company even admits in a blog post that all forwarded messages aren’t bad but that they have 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.”
They go on to say that the company believes it’s “important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.” You can read more regarding the latest move here.
Misinformation can be very deadly, especially in times of panic, that’s why we advise you to gather your information from the most authentic sources available. If you’re in the US, please refer to CDC’s site, and if you’re located anywhere outside the US, we recommend WHO’s site. Don’t forget to social distance and maintain hand hygiene!
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