The company is determined to reduce the threat of fake news and COVID-19 conspiracy theories on the platform.
Casablanca – WhatsApp is set to impose new restrictions on message forwarding to slow the spread of fake news during the COVID-19 crisis. Under the new limits, once a message is forwarded more than five times, the message can only be sent to one chat at a time.
In the past, fake news stories have gone viral on WhatsApp, leading to widespread misunderstandings. WhatsApp hopes to stem the spread of fake COVID-19 news and conspiracy theories by limiting forwarding options.
“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” a WhatsApp spokesperson stated in a blog post on April 7.
Until 2018, the messaging platform allowed users to forward a message to up to 250 groups at once. WhatsApp limited forwarding to 20 groups at a time in 2018, then to five in 2019.
In 2020, WhatsApp limited forwarding even further to just one group at a time.
These severe measures have reduced the forwarding of messages by 25% globally.
One misleading and dangerous COVID-19 theory claims 5G and the coronavirus are related. The theory quickly disseminated throughout the messaging platform, leading many to believe that the coronavirus was caused by 5G.
The fake news story created significant issues for telecommunications operators, with some engineers reporting physical and verbal harassment.
Some citizens of Birmingham, in the US state of Alabama, allegedly burned down a 70-foot (21.3 meters) telephone pole in response to the theory. However, authorities still remain uncertain as to whether the attack was an intentional act of arson or an accident.