To combat the spread of misinformation due to the coronavirus outbreak, users are now restricted from sharing frequently forwarded messages to more than one person.
The rise of the novel coronavirus has seen an increase in the spread of fake news across social media sites and platforms, particularly WhatsApp—a platform known as a hotbed for the forwarding of illegitimate chain messages and conspiracy theories (if you have African parents, you're probably familiar). Now the Facebook-owned app is setting in place new measures to try and curb the spread of fake news on its platform.
The app is putting new restrictions on message forwarding which will limit the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be shared. Messages that have been sent through a chain of more than five people can only subsequently be forwarded to one person. "We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," announced the app in a blog post on Tuesday. "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."
#BREAKING: Whatsapp takes measures to stop Fake News. Starting today, messages that’ve been identified as “highly f… https://t.co/XH4gHP2B1W— Aditya Raj Kaul (@Aditya Raj Kaul)1586245688.0
The move comes as a much-needed respite for those being flooded with untrustworthy messages via the app, which since the spread of the virus, has given traction to defunct conspiracy theories, including one that traces the cause of coronavirus to 5G internet service. Some still believe the app could do even more to reverse its role in the spread of misinformation.
According to Engadget, Facebook reduced the amount of times a message could be forwarded via the app from 20 to five last year, after it was accused of playing a central role in inciting lynchings in India in 2018 due to the spread of misinformation via the WhatsApp.
Facebook has worked with the World Health Organization to limit the spread of fake news around the virus, but came under fire recently when it flagged volunteer efforts for do it yourself face masks.