WhatsApp is making an another change to its service to prevent the spread of misinformation by limiting its message forwarding function.
Now users will only be able to forward messages to 20 contacts at a time all people in India will be limited to forwarding messages to only five people at a time. Also the shortcut button for forwarding messages that appears next to images and video will be removed.
The company is applying a more stringent limit on forwarding to users in India, where the spread of misleading messages over the past year has led to a nationwide spree of some 30 lynchings of people suspected to be kidnappers.
The government responded earlier this month by demanding that WhatsApp make changes to its platform to address the spread of fake news without itself doing much to tackle the systemic issues leading up to these horrific incidents.
WhatsApp began labeling forwarded messages to make it clear that they weren’t created by the person sending them. It also placed ads in prominent Indian newspapers with instructions on how to identify misinformation.
WhatsApp has more than 200 million users in India, and has been working to support payments on its platform using the country’s UPI protocol, which allows for instant money transfers between bank accounts.
If it fails to meet the government’s requirements, it could face many consequences. India has previously disabled mobile internet services and cut off access to social media platforms for large numbers of people in the face of widespread unrest.
WhatsApp seems to be trying to modify the user experience on its app with a light touch approach. But it’s clear that if it wants to stamp out fake news, it’ll have to make much larger changes which may not align with its strategy at present to satisfy a demanding government in its largest market in the world, and it’s not going to be easy.