Whatsapp users now can only send one message to a maximum of five individuals or groups at once according to the new rules and guidelines rolled out by the messaging service in order to tackle the spread of misinformation on their platform.
The Facebook-owned business introduced this update in India a little over six months ago. This update was rolled out following a number of mob lynching blamed on fake news spread via WhatsApp.
WhatsApp’s largest market with more than 200 million users, India, the action was taken after about 30 mob lynching across the country were blamed on fake and misleading messages spread using the app.
Often followed by fevered warnings about child kidnappers targeting a particular village or city, none of it was a new phenomenon in India but analysts said inflammatory rumors were being spread faster and more widely than they have ever before.
Whatsapp’s vice-president for policy and communications, Victoria Grand, announced the policy at an event in Jakarta on Monday, Reuters reported.
“We settled on five because we believe this is a reasonable number to reach close friends while helping prevent abuse,” Carl Woog, the head of communications at WhatsApp, told the Guardian on Monday.
The limit was introduced last summer along with another feature to clearly label forwarded messages and the removal of a quick-forward button next to images, video and audio clips. The company says the measures reduced forwarding by 25% globally and more than that in India, which had one of the highest forwarding rates in the world.
“The forward limit has significantly reduced the number of messages forwarded around the world,” a Whatsapp spokesperson said.
Last week, Facebook also announced that it has removed 500+ pages and accounts spreading fake news in Central Europe, Ukraine, and other Eastern European countries.
After WhatsApp came under scrutiny following the violent incidents in India, the company did not only restrict sharing, they also hired an official grievance officer and offered researchers grants of up to $50,000 to study the scope of fake news on the platform.
However, Whatsapp provides end to end encryption so that the messages stay between the sender and the receiver. This also means that Whatsapp cannot filter out or scan the content being shared for false reports. The Indian Government, with respect to the end-to-end encryption, might change the law to force Whatsapp to police for “unlawful” content.