WhatsApp forwarded message limit: Is it enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 rumours?

Written by Sneha Saha
| New Delhi |

Published: April 8, 2020 12:48:58 pm

WhatsApp forwarded message limit: Is it enough to slow down the spread of COVID-19 rumours?

Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp are taking urgent measures to prevent the spread of false information on their respective platforms. Google has also taken measures to show verified information by the authorities first so people get authentic and verified information as soon as they search for COVID-19 or coronavirus.

At the time of COVID-19 crisis, there are some people who are using these social media platforms to spread awareness related to the pandemic while there are others who are spreading false information and building panic. With the latest feature related to forwarded messages, WhatsApp aims to prevent the spread of unverified information on its platform.

The instant messaging platform has set a limit to a frequently forwarded message. With the new limit rolling out to everyone worldwide. WhatsApp users will no longer be able to forward a message to more than one contact at a time like before. The limit kicks in once a WhatsApp message has been previously forwarded five times or more.

Is this enough to prevent the spread of misinformation?

Well, it clearly isn’t. To control the spread of misinformation it is up to the users to understand the consequences of forwarding an unverified message.

The government officials are doing their bit and urging people to not believe or forward messages that haven’t been officially announced by the authorities. The officials have also said that they will take strict action against people engaged in spreading false information.

ALSO READ: WhatsApp puts cap on frequently forwarded messages to flatten curve of virality

Most WhatsApp users are clearly not following the orders and are blindly believing the many forwarded messages that they receive throughout the day. As a result of which users started panicking when a fake WhatsApp forwarded claiming to be from WHO (World Health Organization) stated that the lockdown will be extended until June.

WHO later took to Twitter to confirm that it hasn’t sent out any such protocol and the message being circulated on WhatsApp is fake.

READ: WhatsApp message from WHO claiming lockdown extended till June is fake; don’t believe it

With the new limit kicked in people will not be able to forward a message to a lot of people but they can always send them one by one. Given everyone is at home and has time in hand this isn’t a very difficult task. In fact, some people can also create groups to send unverified messages. This is something that shouldn’t be done but people who wish to spread misinformation will find out ways regardless of any limit or not. It’s the users who need to understand the importance of verifying all forwarded messages before sending them to other contacts.

The feature we need

WhatsApp is reportedly working on a google search feature for forwarded messages and is expected to roll out very soon. The feature is said to allow users to verify a forwarded message in just click before sending them to others.

The feature will let users search for the forwarded message on Google and find out the authenticity of it. This is a feature that could help users understand the difference between fake and verified messages, leading to a slow down in the spread of misinformation.

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WhatsApp said they have banned around two million account per month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages.

Who to trust and not to

Never trust a forwarded message whether it’s from a close contact or not. Always ensure to check the message with officially announced information before believing it. Head over to the government websites or social media handles to get accurate and verified information.

WhatsApp has recently launched the WHO Coronavirus Health Alert service to provide reliable and official information to users within 24 hours a day worldwide. The messaging platform also announced the MyGov Corona Helpdesk on WhatsApp in partnership with the Government of India to provide authentic COVID-19 information in English as well as other Indian languages.

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