WhatsApp is testing a new feature to limit the spread of spam and misinformation on the platform. The messaging app will now enforce a forwarding limit on all media, videos, photos which are shared on the platform. In India, WhatsApp will test a lower limit of five chats at once, and then remove the quick forward button next to the media file, be it audio, pictures or videos. The global limit on WhatsApp forwards will be 20 chats. Currently the limit is 250 chats. WhatsApp will also removed the quick forward button from media messages in India.
This new restriction means that if a media message is forwarded five times from the same account, then WhatsApp will disable the option for forwarding it further. However, the feature does not appear to be live for all India users yet. We found that we could forward the same media file to more than five contacts at once.
WhatsApp in a blog post revealed that India is the market where people forward more messages, photos and videos than any other country in the world. India is the app’s biggest market with over 250 million users. It is also the market where WhatsApp is facing increasing scrutiny over mob violence and lynching reports after misleading videos went viral on the platform.
The Facebook-owned messaging app in a letter to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) had written that it was horrified by the reports of violence in the country and announced new steps to curb the spread of misinformation.
In its blogpost regarding this new feature on Forwarding message, WhatsApp notes, “Today, we’re launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp. In India – where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world – we’ll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once and we’ll remove the quick forward button next to media messages.”
According to WhatsApp, this will ensure that the platform remains a private messaging app, and also stops misinformation from spreading. However, there is a work around to forwarded messages, at least for text messages. People can also copy the message, and then share it again to multiple chats. This way even the Forwarded label does not appear.
WhatsApp says it will continue to improve the app with new features like this one. According to reports, the app is also testing a new feature to detect suspicious links and warn users before opening them. Another common problem on the messaging app is the spread of messages claiming to offer free vouchers, airline tickets, with fake links being shared.
WhatsApp has already started labeling all forwarded messages as ‘Forwarded’ in the hope of enlightening users that the message sent to them was not written by the sender. The idea is that people will treat some of these forwarded messages with caution. WhatsApp also took out advertisement campaigns in newspapers in India on steps to fight the spread of fake news.