WhatsApp has announced that it has enabled a feature to limit how many groups a message can be forwarded on to. This follows on its recent announcement where it started labelling messages to indicate if they had been forwarded.
The messaging service owned by Facebook has said that this is to try and minimize the spread of misinformation, popularly known as fake news, and spam.
"Today, we're launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp. In India - where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world - we'll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once and we'll remove the quick forward button next to media messages. We believe that these changes - which we'll continue to evaluate - will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app," said WhatsApp in a statement.
Fake news spreading via WhatsApp
Before the announcement of the new limit, WhatsApp users could forward any messages to multiple groups as many times as they wanted to. However, with the new feature, forwarding of Whatsapp messages will be limited to 20 groups only.
The limit is however reduced to 5 forwards in India as a result of recent killings which originated from rumors being spread using WhatsApp according to Police. There is also a report of an incident which saw a man killed and 2 others beaten after rumors of their efforts to abduct children from a village spread on WhatsApp. Added to this, WhatsApp has also removed the a quick forward feature for its users in India, this allowed users to forward on images and videos to other WhatsApp users quickly.
Although the intent is understandable, it is a very thin line between regulating and trying to stop fake news and censorship. This also highlights the power that platforms like WhatsApp wield as they can implement rules to determine, at their discretion, which content is permissible and how it should be distributed on their platforms.