The world’s largest instant messaging application WhatsApp on Tuesday announced a new feature to stem the flow of misinformation around coronavirus (covid-19). The new feature will stop users from forwarding viral messages to multiple users.
A user will now be able to forward messages to only one chat at a time. The limit will kick in once a message has been forwarded on the platform five times, after which, a message can be forwarded to either one WhatsApp group or an individual at a time.
Though the feature is being rolled out to curb coronavirus-related rumours through the platform, it will stay permanently. WhatsApp had introduced a feature last year that highlighted forwarded messages by adding a distinct “forwarded" label with two arrows. The app later limited forwarding to five chats at a time, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwarding on the platform globally.
The new feature is an addition to its efforts to arrest the spread of fake news using the platform.
WhatsApp has been working on other initiatives to fight the spread of fake news around the covid-19 crisis. The company has partnered with organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and UNDP to create the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub that provides credible information about the disease and shows users how WhatsApp business can be used for relief efforts.
The company has also worked with various governments including the Centre and Delhi government to create chatbots that citizens can use to get pertinent information about the disease.
The new feature would also be in line with the recent directives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY). The MeiTY had asked social media platforms to curb the spread of fake news around the Sars-Cov-2 on 20 March. The ministry asked these platforms to “inform their users not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that may affect public order and (is) unlawful in any way".