At one point or another during this COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably been part of a group chat where people keep forwarding supposed cures to the virus or some conspiracy theories, much to your annoyance. In several cases, it’s graduated to something even possibly harmful. WhatsApp has been one of the “culprits” for the spread of these “viral” messages and now the Facebook-owned messaging app is taking steps to stop the proliferation of these highly forwarded messages by placing limits on these kinds of messages.
Previously, WhatsApp introduced the double arrow label on messages that have already been forwarded several times so people are aware that this may have not originated from their close contact. But over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of dangerous misinformation shared within group chats and even one-on-one conversations. Since all of the messages on the platform have end-to-end encryption, it’s difficult to track where these viral messages started.
To try and stem this tide, WhatsApp is now imposing limits on these “highly forwarded” messages by letting you forward it to just one person at a time. No one’s stopping you from sending it to several people really, but it will get excruciating quickly since you have to do it one at a time, so hopefully that will stop people from forwarding it to all of their contacts. The “viral” messages are those that have been sent through a chain of five or more conversations.
WhatsApp emphasizes that not all forwarding is bad since people also share memes, funny videos, reflections, and prayers during this time. This limit is to get people to slow down and maybe think about the thing they’re forwarding before they start a panic by sharing incorrect information and fake news.
In addition to this, WhatsApp is also working with the World Health Organization and other NGOs and governments to connect people with the accurate information needed during this time of pandemic crisis. They will be able to send direct messages to people asking for information and advice through their respective channels. The Coronavirus hub also has some tips and connections on where to get correct information.