WhatsApp limits message forwarding to 5 recipients to curb rumours

JAKARTA • Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger service is globally limiting the number of times a user can forward a message to five, in a bid to fight misinformation and rumours, company executives said yesterday.

“We are imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today,” Ms Victoria Grand, vice-president for policy and communications at WhatsApp, said at an event in Jakarta.

Previously, a WhatsApp user could forward a message to 20 individuals or groups.

The five-recipient limit expands globally a measure WhatsApp put into place in India in July after the spread of rumours on social media led to killings and lynching attempts.

WhatsApp said the forwarding limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world, and that it would continue to evaluate the effects of the changes.

The popular messenger service, which has around 1.5 billion users, has been trying to find ways to stop misuse of the app following global concern that the platform was being used to spread fake news, manipulated photos, videos without context and audio hoaxes, with no way to monitor their origin or full reach.

The app’s end-to-end encryption allows groups of hundreds of users to exchange texts, photos and videos beyond the purview of independent fact checkers or even the platform itself.

WhatsApp was slated to roll out an update to activate the new forward limit starting yesterday, said WhatsApp’s head of communications Carl Woog.

The company’s parent, Facebook, has been the subject of global scrutiny over its role in the spread of fake news and disinformation over the past year in particular.

The social network is under investigation in several countries for letting the data of millions of its users end up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm that was working on Mr Donald Trump’s 2016 US presidential campaign.

Facebook also faced particular criticism in Asia over whether it had done enough to combat the spread of violence in Myanmar.


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