[Update: Limits imposed globally] WhatsApp testing tighter restrictions on message forwarding in India

[Update: Limits imposed globally] WhatsApp testing tighter restrictions on message forwarding in India

The company will also bring in a fake news verification model to India

UPDATE: WhatsApp has imposed a global limit on forwarding messages to just five persons. Original article from July 20, 2018 is preserved below.

In a recent blog post, WhatsApp shed light on its plans to implement tight restrictions on message forwarding for all of its users, and even tighter restrictions for its users in India. This move is yet another measure to fight the menace of fake news and viral misinformation, and comes after WhatsApp recently decided to specially label forwarded messages.

For global users of WhatsApp, the company will limit the number of forwards to 20 other chats (including groups). But for Indian users, who the company claims forward more messages and videos than anywhere else in the world, the company will limit the number of forwards to just 5 chats. WhatsApp will also remove the “quick forward” button next to media messages for Indian users.

The measures introduced by the IM app can easily be worked around, as could be seen with its previous move. Users can copy and paste messages freely to avoid labelling their message as forwards, and we suspect the same to be effective against mass-forwarding too. What these measure do instead is make the process more cumbersome in an effort to dissuade users with lower motivation thresholds. It also showcases WhatsApp’s inclination on being a more responsible platform, which the Government of India insists on, as it shot off another notice to WhatsApp asking for “effective solutions beyond just labelling forwards”.

According to The Economic Times, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Government of India) said in a press statement:

Whatsapp has been requested today to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labeling forwards and identifying fake news.

There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative or inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies. When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.

The statement also mentioned that it has been conveyed to the company “in unmistakable terms” that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response.

Officials from WhatsApp’s US office are in India this week to meet with digital literacy organizations and civil society leaders to discuss the spate of violence that has prompted calls for controlling the spread of viral content on the app. According to the Government of India, the instant messaging app is used by 225 Million people in the country, many of whom are coming online for the very first time. India is also an important market for new as well as upcoming features such as WhatsApp for Business and WhatsApp Payments.

The use and misuse of WhatsApp also gains special attention in light of the general elections that are scheduled for 2019. In a recent state election, campaign operatives of political parties formed dozens of WhatsApp groups, added telephone numbers en masse, and used those groups to send thousands of politically oriented spam messages with ease and barely any accountability. For 2019, WhatsApp will also bring in a fake news verification model it recently used in Mexican general elections to India. The company has also reportedly agreed to maintain high vigilance against spam messaging techniques, especially during the period when election campaigns in India stop (which is 48 hours before polling begins).

Source 1: WhatsApp Blog Source 2: Press Trust of India

Update: Limit rolling out globally

In a bid to “fight misinformation and rumors”, WhatsApp is now globally limiting the number of times a user can forward a message to just five. This was announced at an event in Indonesia.

We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today.

Victoria Grand, Vice President for Policy and Communications at WhatsApp

WhatsApp’s previous forward limits have been live in India for a while now. While its effect in the fight against misinformation is unknown, WhatsApp must have seen an impact to consider a global rollout and an even tighter restriction. While 20 was a comfortable number to work with, a limit of 5 does indeed make it difficult to use the platform efficiently for legitimate uses.

Source: NDTV Gadgets

About author

Aamir Siddiqui
Aamir Siddiqui

I am a tech journalist with XDA since 2015, while being a qualified business-litigation lawyer with experience in the field. A low-end smartphone purchase in 2011 brought me to the forums, and it's been a journey filled with custom ROMs ever since. When not fully dipped in smartphone news, I love traveling to places just to capture pictures of the sun setting. You can reach out to me at [email protected]