With the coronavirus pandemic affecting countries all over the world, misinformation is on the rise on the internet. While it’s easier to track down the origin of posts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s hard to do the same on end-to-end encrypted platforms such as WhatsApp.
In order to limit the damage, the popular chat app is introducing a new limit on forwarding messages: You can now only do that to one chat at a time. That limit kicks in once the message has been forwarded more than five times in total.
Just to explain this a bit further, WhatsApp can’t read the content your messages, but through the metadata, it can count the number of times a particular message has been forwarded.
In a blog post, the chat app said that it saw the number of forwards shoot up in the past couple of days, and that can lead to the spread of misinformation:
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 conversations.
In 2018, WhatsApp began labeling forward messages, and introducing a limit on the number of people you can send that message to in one go. In India, the limit was five people at a time at the launch, which was rolled out worldwide later. The company said this change brought down forwards by 25 percent at that time.