WhatsApp halts mass forwarding to counter info-demic

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

The global chat platform aims to separate itself from claims of misinformation.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp restricted on-forwarding of messages circulating on its platform to counter misinformation being spread about Covid-19.

Since then, WhatsApp’s latest update has detailed how the spread of  “highly forwarded” messages had already dropped globally by 70%.

As one of the Facebook-owned social media platform’s biggest ever feature changes, users are now limited to sending  the frequently forwarded messages they receive to only one person or group at a time, dropped from five. It was rolled out to WhatsApp’s 2 billion global users on April 7th.

This changed functionality of WhatsApp reflects broader pressure on social media platforms to crack down on false pandemic-related information.

WhatsApp has typically been highly regarded for its enhanced privacy features, however, earlier this month, WhatsApp reported a “significant” increase in the “amount of forwarding” that “users have told can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.”

In India, WhatsApp’s biggest market, several false pandemic-related messages had been sent including recommendations for making noise for five minutes, lighting candles and oil-lamps to counter coronavirus  – none of which are true, fact-checkers have confirmed.

The spread of pandemic-related misinformation is part of what the World Health Organisation is calling a “massive info-demic” of information abundance that makes it difficult for people to determine what sources are credible and find reliable guidance when they need it.

At the start of this month too, the New Zealand Government adopted a WhatsApp channel to increase the accessibility and sharability of pandemic combatting messages, including the latest government-approved news and updates,  financial support, and required community actions.

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

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WhatsApp halts mass forwarding to curb coronavirus disinformation

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