News has never traveled faster than it does today. While the accessibility of news can be incredibly useful, it runs the risk of spreading the wrong information that much faster. This inevitable downside has led to a heightened scrutiny regarding the spread of misinformation through private message apps. Whatsapp took action last week and put new limits on the number of times a user can forward messages.
Messages that are considered to be “highly forwarded,” meaning they’re sent through a chain of five or more people, can now only be forwarded to a single person. This was a move that was designed in order to reduce the speed that information moves through the app. It helps keep the truth and fiction at a more even level.
WhatsApp Imposing New Limitations
The company can easily see the tendency of its users to forward various kinds of information, including news articles, memes, funny videos, prayers, and other meaningful messages. In recent weeks, users have also turned to WhatsApp to organize public actions to support the frontline health workers. However, they’ve also noticed that there was an increase in the amount of misinformation that had been shared as of late.
The goal for WhatsApp was to be a place for personal conversations in the first place – and now, it has reason to slow down the spread of those messages.
WhatsApp began to experiment with the limit on message forwarding in 2018, which was also when it started labeling the option by adding two arrows which indicate that a message had been forwarded multiple times. In 2019, they limited forwarding to a maximum of 5 people.
While users can still send the same message to different people over and over again, it creates more friction which can slow down the forwarding rate. WhatsApp says that after the limit was initially imposed, forwards went down 25% around the world.
The company made the move to further limit the forwarding after they came under the spotlight for spreading misinformation around the globe.