WhatsApp limits forwarding function to fight misinformation

With approximately 1.5-billion users globally, WhatsApp has been looking for ways to curb the spread of fake news and audio hoaxes. (Reuters)

With approximately 1.5-billion users globally, WhatsApp has been looking for ways to curb the spread of fake news and audio hoaxes. (Reuters)

On Monday, messaging platform WhatsApp announced an update which will limit the number of times a message can be forwarded in a bid to fight misinformation.

“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today,” said Victoria Grand, vice president for policy and communications at WhatsApp announced.

WhatsApp’s initial cap on message forwarding comes after several killings in India last year occurred as a result of false information being circulated on the social media network.

Scores of people in India were killed last year in mob-related lynchings after misinformation spread on the messaging app.

READ MORE: Fake news adds to India’s flood torment

Previously, WhatsApp users could forward a message to up to 20 recipients or group chats. According to the Washington Post, WhatsApp is the main platform for the spreading of disinformation in Brazil, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Mexico.

The app’s end-to-end encryption allows groups of hundreds of users to exchange messages, documents, photos and video beyond the reach of independent fact checkers or even the platform itself.

With approximately 1.5-billion users globally, WhatsApp has been looking for ways to curb the spread of fake news and audio hoaxes, after the social media network had been misused in a number of instances.

The update comes a day after a WhatsApp message went viral in South Africa, allegedly written by a Sunday Times journalist. The message claims that the Sunday Times initiated disciplinary procedures against a journalist for refusing to link her story on Bosasa whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi, to former president Jacob Zuma.

READ MORE: WhatsApp claiming reporter was axed over Bosasa article dismissed as ‘fake news’

The message has since been identified as false, and the journalist in question — Farida Joyce — has confirmed that she neither wrote the message, nor has she ever worked at the Sunday Times.

The article in question was written by Sunday Times journalist Qaanitah Hunter, who refuted the claims made in the message.

Lauren Dold

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