In a bid to curb the flow of misinformation in COVID-19 times, Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Tuesday announced to introduce a new limit on frequently forwarding messages where a WhatsApp user can forward such messages to one chat at a time.
This limit kicks in once a message has been previously forwarded five times or more, the company said in a statement.
These messages are labeled with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from a close contact.
In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp.
“We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time,” the company said in a statement.
The company said it bans two million accounts per month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages.
WhatsApp set global limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality in January last year where it restricted forwarding messaging to five times from an individual or a group.
“We set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality which led to a 25 percent decrease in message forwards globally at the time,” informed WhatsApp.
In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers.
“However, 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 noted, adding that it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.
WhatsApp is working with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information. It has also announced the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub.