WhatsApp to postpone roll-out of larger groups in Brazil

The feature should be introduced after the presidential elections in October.

As WhatsApp rolls out a range of new features for its messaging app, Brazil will not see some of them until later this year's elections.

The Meta company announced it is rolling out functionalities such as being able to react to a message with emoji, sharing files larger than 2GB in size (a significant leap from the previous 100MB limit), as well as a doubling of the default maximum size of group chats.

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The group size functionality will increase the size cap from 256 to 512 members. However, this specific functionality will be on hold for Brazilian users until the presidential elections, which will take place in October.

This follows an announcement from the company in April that it would also delay the introduction of its Communities feature in Brazil. The postponement of the launch of both features is part of a broader initiative that aims to tackle the spread of false information prior to the elections, whereby the messaging app will refrain from introducing major features during the political campaigning period.

"As previously informed, based exclusively on our long-term strategy for Brazil, [the larger group size] functionality will only be implemented after being tested in other markets, according to the schedule previously published for Communities on WhatsApp", the company said.

An agreement between Meta and Brazil's Superior Electoral Court (TSE) was announced earlier this year, with measures to fend off disinformation and the spread of fake news that may be detrimental to the upcoming elections.

At the time, WhatsApp committed to a handful of initiatives, such as improving a chatbot developed for the 2020 elections. The messaging app was at the center of a scandal involving the country's current president in the elections of 2018, a case that was later investigated by the TSE, which couldn't find evidence of wrongdoing.

As part of the agreement, WhatsApp is also holding seminars for TSE staff about the functioning of the app. Similar agreements have been signed with all the major social media platforms active in Brazil, including the other Meta platforms, Facebook and Instagram. After much controversy, Telegram -- which is the platform of choice for Brazilian politicians accused of spreading disinformation -- also agreed to cooperate with the Brazilian authorities.

Even though the messaging app is holding off on launches of certain major features in Brazil until after the elections, this is still seen as insufficient in terms of tackling the spread of false information. When the company announced its strategy for Brazil, the Public Prosecution Service questioned the messaging app about the possibility of postponing the rollout of the Communities feature until 2023. The document warns about the danger of a "real setback for the efforts around tackling abusive behaviors potentially linked with disinformation".

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