Facebook-owned WhatsApp limits number of forwards to combat fake news | News Coverage from USA

Facebook-owned WhatsApp limits number of forwards to combat fake news

The popular text messaging service WhatsApp Messenger is limiting how widely users can share messages in an effort to reduce the spread of false information.

Previously, users could forward messages to up to 20 recipients, but now the limit will be five.

At a press event in Indonesia, WhatsApp said it decided to move forward after a six-month test of the five-recipient limit in India. The country experienced violence last summer after viral hoax messages resulted in more than a dozen lynchings, CNN reported. 

The “forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world,” WhatsApp told CNN. “We’ll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience, and over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content,” the company added.

Like Facebook, which has been battling misuse on its platform, WhatsApp – the world’s most popular messaging app, with 1.5 billion users – is also fighting to wipe out fake information on the social network. Similar to Facebook, WhatsApp allows users to send encrypted texts, photos and video on a one-to-one basis. 

In an opinion article for the New York Times in October, three researchers said that 44 percent of Brazilian voters were getting their information from WhatsApp, and that much of it wasn’t credible. “the app was used to spread alarming amounts of misinformation, rumors and false news.” The researchers called on WhatsApp in October to restrict forwards. 

Despite five sounding like a small number, The Verge points out that messages could still get forwarded to groups, which can have as many as 256 people. “That means a forwarded message could be put in front of nearly 1,300 people, despite the five time limit.”

The WhatsApp update will launch first to users on the Android platform, which is more heavily used overseas, and then to Apple’s iOS. 

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

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