WhatsApp, the Facebook owned instant messaging app (the “Company”) is imposing new restrictions on its forwarding feature in order to slow the dissemination of fake news through frequently forwarded messages. The intention behind this is to disrupt false COVID-19 information and to curtail the spread of misinformation.
Under the new restriction, a user who receives a frequently forwarded message, specifically one which has been forwarded more than five times, will only be able to send it on to a single chat at a time.
The Company has been working to introduce friction into messaging more generally as well as provide users with information that could help them know when a message is trustworthy. This has been achieved by noting when a message has been forwarded or frequently forwarded; indicated with a double arrow icon.
This move builds on WhatsApp’s effort since 2018, prior to which users had been able to forward messages to 250 contacts at once. This was reduced to 20 in 2018 and five in 2019. This development reduced message forwarding by 25% globally.
We note that false information is particularly dangerous and misleading, especially in times of global unrest. We urge all persons to ensure that only verified information is disseminated.