Amid coronavirus outbreak, WhatsApp has announced that it will limit the sharing of forwarded messages to only one chat at a time, in order to combat the spread of fake news, misinformation. With billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to coronavirus lockdown, people are relying on WhatsApp more than ever to communicate.
People are talking to doctors, teachers, and isolated loved ones via WhatsApp during the coronavirus crisis. Therefore, all the messages and calls on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted by default to give a secure place for most personal conversations, WhatsApp said in a statement.
Last year, WhatsApp introduced users to the concept of messages that have been forwarded many times. These messages were labeled with double arrows to indicate that they did not originate from close contact. In effect, these messages were less personal compared to the typical messages sent on WhatsApp. Meanwhile, the WhatsApp said in a statement that “We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.”
WhatsApp has taken several steps over the years to help keep conversations intimate. For example, WhatsApp previously set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.
Is all forwarding bad?
WhatsApp stated that forwarding is certainly not bad. WhatsApp said that it knows that many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers.
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. Therefore, we believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for a personal conversation, WhatsApp added.
In addition to this, WhatsApp also stated that it is working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information.
Together these trusted authorities have sent hundreds of millions of messages directly to people requesting information and advice. WhatsApp believes that now more than ever people need to be able to connect privately.