In their effort to combat COVID-19 related fake news, WhatsApp introduced a policy in early April, which limits users to forwarding certain messages to one “chat” at a time. As a result, the spread of ‘highly forwarded’ messages has dropped by 70%.
Previously, a user could forward to five ‘chats’ at once. Their new policy states that any message that’s already been forwarded by five or more people can now only be forwarded to a single person or group.
With the spread of ‘highly forwarded’ messages dropping at a high percentage, WhatsApp’s new limit seems to have worked. However, we can’t confirm how many of these messages contain the misinformation, which WhatsApp is trying to halt, and how many of them are helpful advice or just harmless memes.
“This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations. WhatsApp is committed to doing our part to tackle viral messages,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson in a statement.
WhatsApp stated earlier this month when they launched the update that it had seen a “significant” surge in highly forwarded messages that “users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation”, especially in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market.
It was reported that several users in India have circulated messages, often in good faith, claiming that treatments had been found to battle COVID-19 infection including making noise for five minutes or lighting candles and oil-lamps. Fact checkers said that none of these claims were factual.