WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned popular messaging platform, on Tuesday, announced that it has imposed restrictions on frequently shared forwarded messages to only one chat at a time.
The restriction only applies to the messages that have been previously forwarded five times or more. The step has been undertaken by WhatsApp to slow the spread of misinformation regarding the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers,” the company said in an official blog post in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
“However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”
The company said it forbids two million accounts per month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages.
WhatsApp is working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and over 20 national health ministries, to help people connect directly with these trusted authorities looking for accurate information and advice about the pandemic.
Last month, the company had also announced the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub in collaboration with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and UNDP.
In 2019, WhatsApp had reduced the number of forwards from twenty to five chats at a time, after viral rumours on its platform led to mass beatings and mob violence in India in 2018.
While imposing the changes, the messaging platform said that this would “help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app”. The company says this move saw a 25% decrease in total message forwards around the world.