Fake News: WhatsApp limits number of times users forward texts

Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp is set to limit the number of times a user can forward a message from twenty times to five.

According to the company executives, the popular messaging service looks to fight “misinformation and rumours”. Following the global concern that the platform was being used to spread fake news, manipulated photos, videos without context, and audio hoaxes, with no way to monitor their origin or full reach.

WhatsApp, which has around 1.5 billion users, has been trying to find ways to stop misuse of the app. Previously, a WhatsApp user could forward a message to twenty individuals or groups.

The limit of five is an expansion of a measure WhatsApp put in place in India in July after the spread of rumours on social media led to killings and lynching attempts.

“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today,” Victoria Grand, Vice President for Policy and Communications at WhatsApp, said at an event in the Indonesian capital.

The messaging service became part of the political battleground in Brazil’s presidential election on October 2019, with far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro facing claims of using the app to spread falsehoods related to his main opponent. Bolsonaro, who ended up coasting to victory, has denied the charges.

The messaging app was also used to mobilise support for massive truckers strike in Brazil during May 2018.

The truckers strike blocked the country’s main roadways for about 10 days and hampered everything from fuel deliveries to gas stations to shipments of commodities at ports.

The app’s end-to-end encryption allows groups of hundreds of users to exchange texts, photos and video beyond the oversight of independent fact checkers or even the platform itself.

WhatsApp’s head of communications Carl Woog said that to activate the new forward limit, an update will be rolled out starting on Monday. The users of devices running Google’s Android system will receive the update first, followed by users of Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iOS.

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