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WhatsApp is Limiting the Forwarding of Viral Messages

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.

WhatsApp is on a mission to slow the spread of fake news between users and that’s why it has imposed a strict new limit on message forwarding. Starting today, users who plan on forwarding a message that has been identified as “highly forwarded” will only be to send it to a single contact.

A “highly forwarded” message is defined as media that has been sent through a chain of five or more contacts.

“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers,” says WhatsApp in a blog post.

“However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”

This isn’t the first time WhatsApp has introduced a limit like this – in 2019, the Facebook-owned chat app reduced the number of immediate forwarding contacts to five. These messages were labelled with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from a close contact.

In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp. According to The Verge, “introducing more friction helped to slow the rate of forwarding overall — in the past year, forwards are down 25 per cent around the world”.

This restriction comes at a critical time where social media platforms need to be more proactive than usual in tackling misinformation – especially relating to the current COVID-19 pandemic. With billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to COVID-19, people are relying on WhatsApp more than ever to communicate.

Edited by Jenna Delport
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