In a bid to tackle the spread of misinformation and fake news, WhatsApp recently imposed stricter limits on message forwarding. Messages that have been forwarded more than five times can now only be sent to one chat at a time. According to the company, this measure would help slow the spread of misinformation and “keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.” And it appears to be working. In a statement to TechCrunch, WhatsApp revealed that following the new limit the spread of frequently forwarded messages sent on the platform has dropped by 70 percent around the world.
The measure builds upon existing restrictions — back in 2018 the platform restricted users from forwarding messages to more than five chats at once. As a result, message forwards dropped by 25 percent over two years. In light of the ongoing coronavirus situation, WhatsApp said it had seen a “significant” surge in the amount of forwarding which users reported “can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation,” hence the new limits. Amid the pandemic, and with the US elections not far away, fake news has the potential to cause significant repercussions — WhatsApp’s action shows that just one measure can make a difference.