With the coronavirus pandemic affecting countries all over the world, misinformation on the Internet is on the rise. Although it is easier to trace the origin of posts on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, on end-to-end encrypted channels like WhatsApp, it is hard to do the same.
In order to limit the damage, the popular chat app is introducing a new limit on forwarding messages: You can now only do that to one chat at a time. That limit kicks in once the message has been forwarded more than five times in total.
Just to explain this a little more, WhatsApp can't read the content of your messages, but it can count the number of times a given message has been forwarded through the metadata.
Through a blog post, the chat app said it's seen the amount of forwards going up over the past few days, and that can lead to misinformation spreading:
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 conversations.
WhatsApp started to mark forward messages in 2018, and implement a cap on the number of people you can send the message in one go. In India, the cap at the launch, which was rolled out worldwide later, was five people at a time. The organization said that at the time, this move put forward 25 per cent down.
With more than 2 billion users, the Facebook-owned service is also exploring reverse image scanning and text search to counter fake news on its website.
Additionally, the company is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and 20 governments around the world to provide people with accurate COVID-19 information.