WhatsApp has announced new rules for forwarding messages through the service, in an effort to limit the spread of fake news and misinformation.
From today, the company said it will only allow a message to be forwarded to five further recipients. The decision comes after the new limit was trialled in India last year, after false information was deemed responsible for outbreaks of violence.
Now that limit will be implicated worldwide, and will replace the current 20-recipient limit in place in countries like the UK.
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Speaking to the Guardian, WhatsApp head of communications Carl Woog said: “We settled on five because we believe this is a reasonable number to reach close friends while helping prevent abuse.”
The Facebook-owned company has been actively working to halt the misuse of the platform to spread unverified information.
While the end-to-end encryption of messages benefits users in terms of privacy, it also makes it nigh-on impossible to discover the true scale of misinformation being spread among WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion users.
Forwarded messages are noted as such within the WhatsApp conversation thread, but critics of the app say this method simply “strips away the identity of the sender and allows messages to spread virally with little accountability.”
The roll out is beginning today, WhatsApp said in Jakarta on Monday (via Reuters), where it reported that the limiting forwarded messages had reduced the total by 25%.
Whether the change will have an impact in other territories around the world remains to be seen.
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