Whatsapp limits forwarding function in bid to curb fake news

In an attempt to curb the spread of misinformation, Whatsapp has now put a limit on the number of forwarded messages users can send from five, to one person only.

In 2019, WhatsApp introduced the concept of messages that have been forwarded many times, labelled with double arrows to indicate that they did not originate from a close contact.

“In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp. We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time,” a statement read.

The messaging service, which is owned by Facebook, says they have taken several steps over the years to help keep conversations intimate, such as setting limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.

In recent weeks, the messaging service says they have seen an increase in the forwarding of helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers users 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. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”

WhatsApp says they are 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. We believe that now more than ever people need to be able to connect privately. Our teams are hard at work to keep WhatsApp running reliably during this unprecedented global crisis.”

Dear reader,

Coronavirus reporting by Kormorant in partnership with Caxton Local Media aims to combat fake news.
As your local news provider, we have the duty of keeping you factually informed on Covid-19 developments. As you may have noticed, mis- and disinformation (also known as “fake news”) is circulating online. Kormorant is determined to filter through the masses of information doing the rounds and to separate truth from untruth in order to keep you adequately informed. Kormorant follows a strict pre-publication fact-checking protocol. A national task team has been established to assist in bringing you credible news reports on Covid-19.
Readers with any comments or queries may contact Kormorant editor Deon van Huizen (deon@kormorant.co.za), National Group Editor Irma Green (irma@caxton.co.za) or Legal Adviser Helene Eloff (helene@caxton.co.za).