Facebook which owns WhatsApp has taken the initiative to tighten the forwarding limit in hopes to curb the spreading of fake messages regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through this new updated feature, users will have difficulty to forward a message that has already been forwarded one too many times in WhatsApp.
According to The Guardian, if a user receives a frequently forwarded message (one which has been forwarded more than five times) under the new curbs, they will only be able to send it onto a single chat at a time.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a jump in sharing of unverified information through WhatsApp and it was spreading without control.
This has prompted the developers to take immediate action to try and stop the dissemination of fake news.
The Star reported that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called this phenomenon as an “infodemic” of misinformation, pushing governments and other authorities to urge social media companies to do more in combating the problem.
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, WhatsApp has encountered similar problems regarding fake news and misinformation. To counter this, the users (at that time) were only able to forward a message to a maximum of five individuals or groups at once, down from an earlier limit of 20.
However, now, users are only able to send it to one single chat at a time. WhatsApp, which has more than two billion users worldwide, said in a blog post that it made the change after observing a “significant increase” in the number of forwards since the start of the Coronavirus crisis.
“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” the statement said.
Alternatively, WhatsApp encourages people to flag suspicious content to fact-checking organisations. WHO and national health authorities are also able to share reliable information about the pandemic on the service using automated accounts.
In Nigeria, spreading of fake news is punishable by law and authorities take these matters seriously.
Before forwarding a message, it would be wise for users to double-check the information with verified sources. This is to ensure that users are not contributing to the growing amount of fake news that is out there.
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