WhatsApp controls message sharing to five, to curb fake news

Whatsapp logo. [Photo: Courtesy]

WhatsApp is restricting its customers from forwarding single messages more than five times in an attempt to stop the spread of fake news through the messaging platform.

The service, that currently allow users to forward messages up to 20 times, announced the new policy in Jakarta, Indonesia when the country is holding its general elections.

Speaking with BBC, the service spokeswoman said that the new update will curb spread of fake news.

"The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world," a spokeswoman added.

"This will help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts. We'll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience, and over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content."

This comes at a time when Facebook and WhatsApp are being investigated over their role in spreading propaganda through these platforms.

WhatsApp has been working to curb the circulation of what technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad termed “sinister” content in India, the firm’s biggest market where it boasts over 220 million users.

Such misinformation led to the lynching of over 30 people since January 2018, according to data portal IndiaSpend, prompting Prasad to call on WhatsApp to trace its origins.

WhatsApp has previously declined to trace the origin of messages, citing security issues.

The firm has since launched print, radio and television advertising campaigns to educate users on the dangers of misinformation. It is also conducted roadshows in partnership with mobile phone network provider Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

The platform will allow a maximum of 256 users in WhatsApp groups.