In a bid to slow down the spread of misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic, messaging platform WhatsApp is now introducing a limit so that frequently forwarded messages can only be sent to only one chat at a time. This limit kicks in once a message has been previously forwarded five times or more.
WhatsApp believes that now people need to be able to connect privately more than ever and its teams are working to keep WhatsApp running reliably during this unprecedented global crisis.
Last year, WhatsApp introduced users to the concept of messages that have been forwarded many times. These messages are labelled with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from a close contact. In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp.
With billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to Covid-19, people are now more relying on WhatsApp to communicate. People are talking to doctors, teachers, and isolated loved ones via WhatsApp during this crisis. That’s why all messages and calls on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted by default to give a secure place for the most personal conversations.
As a private messaging service, WhatsApp has taken 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.
All forwarding is not bad. 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 organise public moments of support for frontline health workers. However, there has been a significant increase in the amount of forwarding, which can contribute to the spread of misinformation. So it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.
WhatsApp is also working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organisation 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. One can learn more about these efforts, as well as how to submit potential myths, hoaxes and rumours to fact-checking organisations, on WhatsApp’s Coronavirus Information Hub .
WhatsApp will continue to listen to users’ feedback and improve ways for people to share with each other on WhatsApp.