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.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: How Much Money Will The IRS Send You Each Month?
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.
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“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.MORE NEWS: Child Tax Credit: Your First Check Is Less Than A Month Away
But direct content moderation used on Facebook or Twitter is not possible on WhatsApp because chats are protected by end-to-end encryption blocking.