SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Local) — WhatsApp is placing additional restrictions on the number of times a forwarded message can be shared simultaneously in new effort to curtail the spread of misinformation amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Facebook-owned instant messaging service said Tuesday that any message that has been forwarded five or more times will now face a new limit that prevents a user from forwarding it to more than one chat (contact) at a time.

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WhatsApp has long been plagued by misinformation, but the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the problem.

“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,” the company wrote in a blogpost.

“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” the statement continued.

The move followed the spread of conspiracy theories linking 5G mobile networks with COVID-19 and appeared to inspire people to set fire to cell phone masts in Britain.

The chat app has been gradually tightening the restrictions on its forwarding function, where a user can easily choose multiple groups or people to receive the message.

Until 2018, for instance, a user had been able to forward a message to 250 groups at once, with each group capable of hosting hundreds of users.

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But direct content moderation used on Facebook or Twitter is not possible on WhatsApp because chats are protected by end-to-end encryption blocking.