Before the public health crisis, WhatsApp users were limited to forwarding messages to five users at a time. This previous limit was first introduced in India in a bid to spread the spread of misinformation on the chat app. Following huge success – WhatsApp said spam messages were reduced by a quarter (25 percent) at the time, the messaging app decided to roll out the limitation worldwide.
Of course, the latest restriction doesn’t stop you from sending the same text messages over and over again to each one of your contacts, but it will make the task far more laborious. And that seems to be putting people off.
And it seems the new limit introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic has seen even bigger gains in the fight against misinformation.
According to WhatsApp, the one-person limit has seen a 70 percent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages. WhatsApp defines a “highly forwarded” message as any text that has been passed on five times or more.
This is usually indicative of a viral message – designed to be shared to multiple friends and family. A number of conspiracy theories, rumours and hoaxes about the novel coronavirus, including one that 5G masts have impacted the spread of the virus that led people to set equipment on fire across the UK, have sprung up during the outbreak.
In a statement, WhatsApp – which is comfortably the most-used messaging app on the planet with two billion users – said: “WhatsApp is committed to doing our part to tackle viral messages. We recently introduced a limit to sharing ‘highly forwarded messages’ to just one chat. Since putting into place this new limit, globally there has been a 70percent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp. This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations.”
That’s an impressive drop. However, as all conversations, voice memos, photos, video calls and documents sent in WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted it’s tough to track whether these measures are getting to the right messages.
However, WhatsApp seems to be chuffed with the progress, so hopefully, the damaging misinformation around coronavirus isn’t traveling as fast – or as wide – as it was during the first few weeks of the pandemic.
The news comes as WhatsApp doubled the number of people who can take part in a video chat within its chat app. This is designed to help people keep in touch while keeping to the social distancing rules.
Published at Mon, 04 May 2020 08:50:00 +0000