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WHATSAPP PLACES NEW RESTRICTIONS ON FORWARDING MESSAGES TO COUNTER CORONAVIRUS MISINFORMATION

Whataspp in an attempt to curb the rapid spread of misinformation on COVID-19 has placed limits on the number of times forwarded messages can be shared simultaneously.

WhatsApp, like other text messaging platforms, has been used in recent months to spread messages that often contain a mixture of claims about the virus, some accurate and some that have been debunked by medical experts. The problem is now so acute that world leaders are urging people to stop sharing unverified information using the app.

 In simple terms, it means that a message received by a person on owned WhatsApp that has already been forwarded five times can now only be passed on to one chat at a time.

Since the outbreak, the spread of misinformation on the platform is increased tremendously thus the goal is to minimize the amount of fake news on the disease reaching users on the platform daily.

Tech pundits say that this is the strictest restriction yet placed on the Facebook-owned platform. Before the latest restrictions, the chat app has gradually been tightening the restrictions on its forwarding function, where a user could easily choose multiple groups or people to receive the message.

Two years ago, a user could pass on a forwarded message to 250 groups at once, with each group capable of hosting hundreds of users.

By last year, the company had reduced that limit to five groups at a time. Now it’s one, although a user could theoretically still forward the same message to individuals or groups one by one.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation,” WhatsApp said in a blog post. “We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”

The spread of fake information on Whatsapp has increased since the outbreak of the coronavirus, hence the restrictions to curb such excesses.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram, WhatsApp fully encrypts its messages, meaning the company has no idea what’s being said or shared. And unlike Facebook, it cannot attach a warning and explanation to posts deemed false by fact-checkers.

A study conducted last year by the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil found that while limiting forwarding to five groups could delay the spread of misinformation “depending on the virality of the content, those limits are not effective in preventing a message to reach the entire network quickly.”

WhatsApp has taken other steps in the light of the coronavirus pandemic to fight misinformation, such as donating money to fact-checking organizations, some of which run accounts people can send messages to. They’ve also teamed up with international and national health organizations to create chatbots that can answer people’s coronavirus questions.

The platform is also working on a new feature that would allow users to take a message they’ve received and quickly search the web to check its content. In screenshots shared with TechCrunch last month, a magnifying glass appears next to a message, which would take the user to a related Google search.

 

Source : Graphiconline

 

April 9, 2020

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