Vastly popular messaging app WhatsApp is making it harder to share certain commonly forwarded messages as it tries to crack down onrumours and misinformation.
As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues, there has been a rapid increase in the volume of false information and scams related to news about the diseases being shared, either maliciously or accidentally, through all types of social media, leaving big-tech companies scrambling to crack down.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp said it has seen a significant increase in the amount of message forwarding, which it said is leaving some users overwhelmed and is contributing to the spread of misinformation.
The app already labels frequently-forwarded messages -- which have been forwarded more than five times -- with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from a close contact. Now the company has said it will only allow these types of messages to be sent by users to one chat at a time, in a bid to slow down their spread.
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This is the latest step WhatsApp has taken to address the speed at which messages can spread: in January last year it limited the forwarding of messages to five chats at once, in order to constrain virality. WhatsApp said this resulted in a 25% decrease in total message forwards globally.
The company said it bans two million accounts per month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages.
WhatsApp is also trying to give users more information about some of these mass-forwarded messages. The latest beta release displays a magnifying glass icon next to these frequently forwarded messages, giving users the option to send that message to a web search where they can find news results or other sources of information. "Double checking these messages before forwarding may help reduce the spread of rumours," the company said.