WhatsApp to cap message forwards in India

WhatsApp is trialling a limit on forwarding messages in India in an effort to curb rumours being spread through the messaging service.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Facebook's WhatsApp is launching a trial to limit forwarding messages that will apply to all users in India, after Indian authorities sought curbs on the spread of rumours that have led to violent incidents.

Mob lynchings triggered by false incendiary messages in India -- WhatsApp's biggest market, with more than 200 million users -- led to authorities calling for steps to prevent the circulation of false texts and provocative content.

WhatsApp said that it will also test a lower limit of five chats -- individual or group chats -- at a time and remove the quick forward button next to media messages in India. Indians forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, the company said.

Earlier this month, in response to a call from India's technology ministry, the messaging service said it required a partnership with the government, as well as society in general, to curb the spread of false information on its platform.

WhatsApp last week published advertisements in key Indian newspapers to tackle the spread of misinformation, its first such effort to combat a flurry of fake messages.

Also see: How WhatsApp has emerged as an unwitting messenger of hate and division in India

The messaging service had said it was giving users controls and information to help them stay safe, and that it planned to run long-term public safety advertising campaigns.

So far this year, false messages about child abductors on WhatsApp have triggered mass beatings of more than a dozen people in India, some of whom have died.

Late last year, a fake version of WhatsApp received over a million downloads before it was pulled from the Google Play Store.

To dupe Android users, those behind the fake app differentiated a developer ID from WhatsApp's ID by a no-break space at the end of the name.

In January, the company released WhatsApp Business for Android for small businesses to respond to customers and manage a presence on the messaging platform.

Don't miss: Why WhatsApp's entrance into India's payments space has terrified Paytm

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum left Facebook in April, with reports stating it was over disagreements to degrade the encryption used by WhatsApp.

"I will miss working so closely with you," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said to Koum at the time. "I'm grateful for everything you'd done to help connect the world, and for everything you've taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralised systems and put it back in people's hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp."

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton left Facebook in November 2017, and has been critical of the company following the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014.

With AAP

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