In an effort to combat the spread of fake news, WhatsApp is implementing restrictions on forwarding messages to groups.
Currently there is no limit to the number of groups that can receive a forwarded message. WhatsApp is trialling a version that would restrict this to 20 groups globally. This would be further limited to five groups in India, where the company noted “people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world.”
Additionally, the quick forward button that appears next to media messages will be removed in India. The additional restrictions in the country follow the killings of least ten people by violent mobs incited by fake news messages spread via WhatsApp. The messages accused individuals of activity such as organ harvesting and child trafficking.
A statement from WhatsApp read: “As we’ve added new features, we’ve been careful to try and keep that feeling of intimacy, which people say they love. We believe that these changes – which we’ll continue to evaluate – will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app.”
Responding to the spread of misinformation that resulted in the killings, WhatsApp representative Carl Woog said that the firm was “working to make it clear when users have received forwarded information and provide controls to group administrators to reduce the spread of unwanted messages in private chats.”
Since then, WhatsApp has updated the app with an identifier to show whether a message has been forwarded. Additionally, it has launched a campaign across the Indian media to raise awareness of fake news.