WhatsApp as a platform has long been misused to spread misinformation, and it has come under fire for not being able to completely curb the practice. The Facebook-owned company however, has been making several moves to prevent the spread of misinformation. Recently, amid the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown in several parts of the world, the saw fake news messages increase. To counter this, it recently service implemented a restriction on highly forwarded or frequently forwarded messages and now, it looks like the implementation has paid off. WhatApp claims there has been a 70 percent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said, “WhatsApp is committed to doing our part to tackle viral messages. We recently introduced a limit to sharing ‘highly forwarded messages’ to just one chat. Since putting into place this new limit, globally there has been a 70 percent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp. This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations.”
Although, a reduction in forwarded messages does not directly translate to stopping the spread of misinformation, this is still a step in the right direction.
The update that limits sending highly forwarded messages came earlier this month and prevented users from sending frequently forwarded messages – those that have been previously forwarded five times or more – to one person at a time. However, it should be noted that these messages can still be sent to multiple contacts by copy and pasting the message text into individual chats. But, the implementation of this limit seems to have worked well with 70 percent reduction being a significant amount.
A previous update limited forwarding of highly forwarded messages to five contacts at once. That resulted in a 25 percent decrease in message forwards at the time, globally.
At a time like this, it is important to curb the spread of misinformation, especially when the primary mode of communication has become messaging and calling. With a huge number of people using WhatsApp for communicating and sharing information, this reduction comes as great news.