WhatsApp’s Strategy of Curbing Spread of Misinformation : ‘drop 70%’


WhatsApp’s bid on cutting virality of messages circulating on its platform by introducing an additional limit earlier this month has already started to pay off.

The Facebook -owned service said on Monday that spread of “highly forwarded” messages sent on WhatsApp had dropped by 70% globally in weeks after introducing a new restriction earlier this month.

In one of the biggest changes to its core feature, WhatsApp said earlier this month that users on its platform can now send along frequently forwarded messages they receive to only one person or a group at a time, down from five. The restriction was rolled out globally to WhatsApp’s 2 billion users on April 7.

“We recently introduced a limit to sharing ‘highly forwarded messages’ to just one chat. Since putting into place this new limit, globally there has been a 70% reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told Tecground in a statement.

WhatsApp first introduced a similar limit in 2018, when it restricted users from forwarding a message to more than five people or groups at once. While announcing the new restriction earlier this month, WhatsApp said message forwards on its service had dropped by 25% globally in two years.

“This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations. WhatsApp is committed to doing our part to tackle viral messages,” the spokesperson said today.

The cut down on forwards should help WhatsApp assuage the scrutiny it is receiving in many countries, including India, its biggest market.

New Delhi asked WhatsApp and other messaging and social media firms last month to do more to control the viral hoaxes circulating on their platforms about coronavirus infection. This is the latest of several similar advisories India has sent to social media firms operating in the country,

WhatsApp said earlier this month that it had seen a “significant” surge in the “amount of forwarding” in recent weeks that “users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.”

In recent weeks, several users in India have circulated messages, often in good faith, that claimed that treatments had been found to battle coronavirus infection and that there were scientific explanations to back some of the community measures New Delhi had enforced such as asking people to make noise for five minutes or lighting candles and oil-lamps. Fact checkers said that none of these claims were factual.

WhatsApp and its parent firm, Facebook, have taken several efforts in recent months to help governments in many countries, including India, reach their citizens and share authoritative information about the coronavirus pandemic.


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