News World WhatsApp limits message forwarding to slow spread of coronavirus misinformation

WhatsApp limits message forwarding to slow spread of coronavirus misinformation

Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp tightened message forwarding limits on Tuesday, restricting users to sharing forwarded content one chat at a time after a jump in messages touting bogus medical advice since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic, which has killed more than 70,000 people worldwide, has been accompanied by what the World Health Organization (WHO) has called an “infodemic” of misinformation, prompting governments and other authorities to urge social media companies to do more to combat the problem.

WhatsApp, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, said in a blog post it made the change after observing a “significant increase” in the number of forwards since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” the statement said.

A WhatsApp spokesman said the new limit was in place indefinitely.

The service has been imposing gradual curbs on message forwarding since 2018, after viral rumours on its platform triggered a wave of mass beatings and deaths in India.

Since last year, users have been able to forward a message to only five individuals or groups at once, down from an earlier limit of 20. The app also labeled any messages that had been forwarded more than five times.

Facebook and Twitter have responded to the deluge of inaccurate medical information posted in recent months by barring users from posting misleading information about the coronavirus, including denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments.

But direct content moderation is not possible on WhatsApp, where chats are protected by end-to-end encryption blocking even the app itself from viewing content shared by users.

That allows groups of hundreds of people to exchange texts, photos and videos, with no way to monitor the messages’ origin or full reach.

WhatsApp said in its blog post that the previous limits set on forwards led to a 25% decrease in such messages.

The app also encourages people to flag suspicious content to fact checking organizations and has enabled the WHO and national health authorities to share reliable information about the new coronavirus on the service using automated accounts.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

91 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday

The Health Ministry announced 91 new COVID-19 cases on 26 October, out of 2,285 laboratory tests, taking confirmed infections to 3,636. The break-down of new...

Bottled water withdrawn from Cyprus market

The Health Ministry is informing consumers that within the framework of the officials tests conducted in the market, the Ministry’s health services have tested...

President: Attack against Macron insults European values

In a written statement, President Anastasiades said that this attack, against the French President from the leader of a country which is candidate for...

Finance Minister: No lockdown forseen in 2021 state budget

Minister of Finance Constantinos Petrides called on MPs to approve the 2021 state budget given the critical moments facing Cyprus due to the coronavirus...

Mitsotakis-Anastasiades have working lunch

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday had a working lunch with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades. According to government sources, during the lunch they discussed Turkey's...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...