WhatsApp rolls out limit on message forwarding to combat spread of misinformation

From now on, you will only be able to forward a message on WhatsApp to five people or groups at any one time.

In an effort to fight ‘misinformation and rumours’, Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp has reduced the limit of the number of times a user can forward any given message, starting 21 Jan. Previously, a user could forward a message on the app to 20 individuals or groups at a time.

“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today (Monday, Jan 21),” Ms Victoria Grand, vice president for policy and communications at WhatsApp, said at an event in Jakarta.

Following growing global concern that the platform is being used to spread rumours, manipulated photos, videos without context, and audio hoaxes, WhatsApp has been trying to find ways to stop misuse of the app. With over 1.5 billion users and end-to-end encryption, there is no way for independent fact checkers or even WhatsApp itself to monitor the origin or full reach of such misinformation being spread on the platform.

In October last year, it was claimed that Brazil’s far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonari used the app to spread falsehoods related to his biggest opponent. Mr Bolsonaru eventually coasted to a victory and denied the allegations.

In May 2018, the app was also used to mobilise support for a massive truckers strike in Brazil that blocked the country’s main roadways for 10 days which hindered many operations including fuel deliveries to gas stations and shipments of commodities at ports.

The update will be rolled out starting 21 Jan, said WhatsApp’s head of communications Carl Woog. Google’s Android system will receive the update first followed by Apple’s iOS.

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