WhatsApp has announced new limitations on message forwarding, specifically intended to stop the spread of misinformation about coronavirus.
The new rule applies specifically to ‘frequently forwarded messages’, which have been forwarded more than five times and are identified with a double arrow icon.
This isn’t the first time WhatsApp has stepped in to stem the flow of misinformation; in January 2019, it imposed a rule that messages could only be forwarded to five different users or groups. However, it’s now decided that this didn’t go far enough and has tightened the reins further still.
The latest WhatsApp beta has revealed that the company is also working on a new tool that will make it easier to fact-check messages you receive. A magnifying glass icon beside forwarded messages will allow you to search for their contents online, which should quickly debunk anything less than truthful.
Tightening the rules
WhatsApp says it bans two million accounts a month for attempting to spam users with bulk or automated messages, and is working directly with governments and non-government organizations (such as the World Health Organization) to share accurate, useful information.
Last month WhatsApp unveiled a new coronavirus fact hub in association with the WHO, intended as a one-stop shop for facts about the virus. It includes practical advice on hand hygiene and social distancing, as well as tips for avoiding spreading false information on social media, and always thinking twice before forwarding a message.
The company stresses the importance of checking that coronavirus-related stories and information you share are accurate, suggesting that you verify facts with official sources or fact checkers. The advice is: “If you aren’t sure something’s true, don’t forward it.”