A few weeks ago, WhatsApp limited the way viral messages can spread on its network in order to fight misinformation. Now, the company says the measures are working.
“We recently introduced a limit to sharing ‘highly forwarded messages’ to just one chat. Since putting into place this new limit, globally there has been a 70 percent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.
WhatsApp first started limiting the spread of viral messages in January 2019 by restricting the number of chats where a forwarded message can be shared to five. And in April 2020, the company cut this down to one. WhatsApp said it has done this after its users said that viral messages “can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.”
While the measure was obviously a reaction to the proliferation of false information amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s obviously changing WhatsApp altogether. A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch that the change is “helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversation.” In other words, don’t expect the limit to be lifted anytime soon.
The new limit was also imposed as a reaction to increased government scrutiny in India, a major market for WhatsApp. According to Business Standard, the company has informed India’s government that the limitation has significantly slowed down the spread of viral messages. The company is also working on a feature that would let users get more information on viral messages that may be spreading misinformation.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook (WhatsApp’s parent company), which recently invested $5.7 billion in India telecom Reliance Jio, has just started piloting a grocery shopping system on WhatsApp in India.