WhatsApp is a major cause for the spread of fake news around the world and with the COVID-19 pandemic, users all over have been spreading fake nonsense thanks to the ability to easily forward a message. That is going to end as the popular chat service has announced that starting today, the app will begin detecting messages that have been “highly forwarded”, preventing you from sending it to more than a single person.
WhatsApp describes a “highly forwarded” message as one that has been sent through a chain of five or more people. The move has been implemented to help reduce the spread of fake news and while it does not prevent it, it is a start. WhatsApp announced in a press release that its message forwarding system will help the situation;
“We know 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 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.”
The company has gone a long way to cut down on message forwarding over the past few years. Initially, users could forward a WhatsApp to as many as 256 people. In 2018, the company then began changing the UI by placing two arrows on a text to show that a message has been repeatedly forwarded. Last year, WhatsApp then began limiting message forwarding to five people.
WhatsApp has been used as a tool during the COVID-19 pandemic to spread false information and fake news. Last month, CNN and other news agencies found that the app was being used to share fake “cures” for COVID-19. Governments urged people to stop sharing unverified sources on WhatsApp through the forwarding feature.