WhatsApp is going to ban its users from forwarding a message more than five times, in an attempt to stop the abuse of the platform.
The crackdown is an attempt to stop the spread of hoaxes and false rumors that often begin on the app and can be propelled around the world quickly.
Victoria Grand, WhatsApp’s vice president for policy and communications at WhatsApp, at an event in Indonesia said, “We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today”. The decision had been made to stop “misinformation and rumors”.
WhatsApp has run into particular problems as false stories fly around the app, being repeatedly shared within large groups. Because of the private nature of the platform, forwarded messages can quickly lose their context and change as they are passed on, an effect that has had deadly consequences.
What’s more, the app is end-to-end encrypted, meaning that even WhatsApp is unable to see the content of messages or shut down false rumors as they spread.
The five message limit is already in place in India, which has had a particular problem with false stories circulating on WhatsApp. It was introduced in Summer, amid a host of other changes intended to make WhatsApp a more reliable way of sharing information.
“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,” it said in a blog post announcing that earlier rollout.
Before the changes, users were able to forward a message to 20 people or groups at once. That meant they could theoretically be sent on to thousands of people in the press of just a couple of buttons.
The change will be added in a software update that is rolling out now.