COVID-19: WhatsApp plans to slash forwarded messages beyond 25%

From now, users can only forward messages to one contact at a time, rather than to multiple contacts simultaneously.

The messaging app had previously reduced the number of chats that could receive a message simultaneously, but the latest development is a stricter measure.

The messaging app has often been criticised for playing a role in spreading false information, so in order to prevent the spread of fake information amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, WhatsApp has taken this drastic action.

Part of its previous measures taken to curb the spread had been to introduce a new feature that helps users identify personal messages from forwarded ones. The limitation placed, according to WhatsApp, caused a 25% decline in the number of forwarded messages.

In a statement issued by WhatsApp and seen by Nairametrics, it said, “Last year, we introduced users to the concept of messages that have been forwarded many times. These messages are labeled with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from close contact.

“In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp. We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time. As a private messaging service, we’ve taken several steps over the years to help keep conversations intimate.

“For example, we previously set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.”

WhatsApp is left with no choice: It stated that it understood that some messages forwarded to multiple contacts could be beneficial, but the recent spike in the number of forwarded messages recorded had been causing anxiety among users, hence the latest restriction, which should slow things down.

“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, 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.

“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,” it added.

WhatsApp said it is working directly with “NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information,” amidst the Coronavirus outbreak.

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