In a bid to stop the spread of fake information and spam, WhatsApp few days ago introduced labels that show when a message has been forwarded. Now the company is sharpening that logic by imposing restrictions on how many groups a message can be sent on to.
Initially, users were able to forward messages on to several groups, but a latest trial will see that forwarding restricted to 20 groups throughout the world. In India, however, which is WhatsApp’s biggest market with 200 million users, the restriction will be just five. Additionally, a ‘quick forward’ option that permitted users to pass on images and videos to others quickly is being eliminated from India.
The company mentioned in a blog post, “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.”
The alteration are designed to assist in minimizing the amount of information that goes viral on the service, although clearly this is not a move that will end the issue altogether.
The change is in direct response to several incidents in India. The BBC recently mentioned about an incident which saw one man dead and two others severely beaten after rumors of their efforts to abduct children from a village spread on WhatsApp. Reportedly 17 other people have been murdered in the past year under similar situations, with police saying false rumors had spread through WhatsApp.
In reply, WhatsApp — which is of course owned by Facebook — has purchased full-page newspaper ads to alert regarding fake information on its service.
Beyond concern about firing up vigilantes, the saga may also spill into India’s upcoming national general election upcoming year. Times Internet today reports that Facebook and WhatsApp plan to launch a false news verification system that it utilized recently in Mexico to assist in combat spam messages and the spreading of wrong information. The paper mentioned that the companies have already held talks with India’s Election Commission.
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