In a blog post posted on Thursday, WhatsApp said it is planning to limit message forwarding in India. The company is doing so to fight against the spreading of fake news. Earlier, WhatsApp launched a feature that puts a “Forwarded” tag on every message which is not created by the user himself.
“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,” WhatsApp’s spokesman Carl Woog wrote in the blog. “We’re horrified by the violence in India, and we’ve announced number of different product changes to help address these issues. It’s a challenge which requires an action by civil society, government and tech companies,” the blog reads.
In India, where false rumours about child abduction spread virally over WhatsApp, leading to more than a dozen vigilante murders over the past months, the new limit will be even stricter. Each message can be forwarded just five times. In that country, where according to Facebook “people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”, WhatsApp is also removing the “quick forward” feature, a button that appears next to photos, videos and links. The previous forwarding cap, rarely hit by users, was more than 250. For the global version of the application, the company will limit the number of forwards to 20 other groups.
Not just India, but other countries too have grappled with the spread of fake news on the platform – including during a recent yellow fever epidemic in Brazil – but in India the fake news problem is particularly pernicious because so many digitally naive users are coming online for the first time.
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