Social media platform, WhatsApp has revealed plans to limit users from forwarding a message more than five times, in an attempt to stop abuse of the platform.
The crackdown is an attempt to stop the spread of hoaxes and false rumours that often begin on the app and can be propelled around the world quickly.
The company’s Vice-President for Policy and Communications, Victoria Grand, announced the policy at an event in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday.
“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today. The decision had been made to stop “misinformation and rumours,” Grand stated.
According to Statista, a statistics portal, as at October 2018, WhatsApp recorded 1.5 billion active users. In Nigeria, with over 110 million Internet users, Statista claimed WhatsApp has 41 per cent penetration rate in the country.
WhatsApp has run into particular problems as false stories fly around the app, being repeatedly shared within large groups. Because of the private nature of the platform, forwarded messages can quickly lose their context and change as they are passed on, an effect that has had deadly consequences.
What’s more, the app is end-to-end encrypted, meaning that even WhatsApp is unable to see the content of messages or shut down false rumours as they spread.
The five message limit is already in place in India, which has had a particular problem with false stories circulating on WhatsApp. It was introduced in Summer, amid a host of other changes intended to make WhatsApp a more reliable way of sharing information.
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“We believe that these changes – which we’ll continue to evaluate – will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” it said in a blog post announcing that earlier rollout.
Before the changes, users were able to forward a message to 20 people or groups at once. That meant they could theoretically be sent on to thousands of people in the press of just a couple of buttons.
The change will be added in a software update that is rolling out now. Facebook bought WhatsApp for $18 billion in 2014.