WhatsApp Introduces Another Feature to Stop the Spread of Misinformation

Woman with phone whatsapp

Two weeks ago WhatsApp already added two features to its app to combat the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus. Now, they are introducing a third. They are putting in a new restriction on how often a message can be forwarded to others.

Preventing the Spread of Fake-news

WhatsApp claims that now, during the corona crisis, the app is used more than ever. Since people can’t communicate face to face they have to resort to other options. But the company has also observed a significant rise in the number of forwarded messages. This could mean that many fake-news messages are being forwarded at an enormous rate. WhatsApp wants to put a halt to this spread of misinformation. The company is introducing new restrictions on the amount of people a message can be forwarded to.

The limit is an addition to the one that was rolled out worldwide in January 2019, when WhatsApp introduced that a forwarded message can only be sent on to five other users at a time. Now they are adjusting this limit. From now on users can forward a message to only one person at a time. A forwarded message is labelled as one once it has been sent on to others more than five times.

The company cannot be more targeted in labeling fake-news messages since the app has end-to-end encryption. This means that WhatsApp can’t actually read the content of forwarded messages. That is why a message is flagged once it has been sent on more than five times. The recipient has the responsibility to then judge the authenticity of the information in said message.

Facebook Plays its Part in Corona Crisis

WhatsApp, which is of course owned by Facebook, said that they hope they can slow down the spread of misinformation about Covid-19 by implementing these limitations. This is a new virus, so people don’t know a lot about it and many will believe anything they read. This could mean that people take the wrong precautions to stop the spread of the virus. Which could lead to dangerous situations.

This is not the only step that Facebook is taking in the fight against the Corona virus though. Facebook is trying to use the user data they have collected for a good cause. The company is making the information available for researchers, so that they can be more targeted in their Covid-19 battle and save more lives.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.