WhatsApp to limit message forwarding

Posted July 20, 2018

"Today, we are launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp", the messaging platform said in a blog post on Thursday.

"We believe that these changes - which we'll continue to evaluate - will help keep WhatsApp the way it was created to be: a private messaging app", said WhatsApp in a statement.

In order to cut down on rumours being spread through forwarding messages, social messaging app WhatsApp said that it will test a new feature which will limit the number of forwarding messages to 5.

"There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative or inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies".

The government responded earlier this month by demanding that WhatsApp make changes to its platform to address the spread of fake news - without itself doing much to tackle the systemic issues leading up to these horrific incidents. For 2019, WhatsApp will also bring in a fake news verification model it recently used in Mexican general elections to India. Indians forward more messages, photos and videos than any other country in the world, according to WhatsApp.

For the global version of the application, the company will limit the number of forwards to 20 other groups. "If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action". The company has also reportedly agreed to maintain high vigilance against spam messaging techniques, especially during the period when election campaigns in India stop (which is 48 hours before polling begins).

On Thursday, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) sent a second legal letter to WhatsApp, asking to come out with "more effective solutions" to prevent mob violence in India. Thanks to the new limit, a message can not be forwarded to more than 5 people in the contact list now at a time. Nowadays, people not only forward the goody goody quotes on WhatsApp, they also share misinformation, fake news and plain malicious rumours.

Whatsapp had added a feature to let people forward a message to multiple chats at once a few years ago.

Lynchings are nothing new in India, but the spread of smartphones-there are a billion plus handsets, and data is cheap-to even the most remote corners has enabled rumors to be shared at lightning speed.

Outlining steps it has taken to curb abuse of its platform, WhatsApp - in its response to the first notice sent by the IT Ministry - had said that it has the ability to prevent spam but since it cannot see the content of private messages, blocking can be done only based on user reports.