Facebook-owned WhatsApp is taking measures to try and stop the spread of the phenomenon known as “fake news”. The company will prevent Android and iOS users from forwarding messages to more than five users or groups as part of efforts to stop the spread of misinformation.
It’s important to note that this “feature” will only be relevant to information which is forward from other chats within WhatsApp, which comes into play when a user selects to “Forward” that information from one conversation to another.
The company clearly hopes that this new inclusion will mean that if the information is incorrect and deemed as “fakes news” that the limit will prevent it from distributing like wildfire via multiple chats and groups. It’s evident that this change is WhatsApp’s reaction to a slew of violent crimes which have been attributed to the spread of incorrect information and erroneous news.
While we can all – hopefully – agree that spreading inaccurate information needs to be stopped, or at the very least, limited, it is important to note that not all WhatsApp users will see this move from the Facebook-owned company as a positive step. There is a lot of pressure on Facebook at the moment to turn around what some people would call its shady business practices and this move could be interpreted as the company forcing censorship on WhatsApp users and dictating what can and can’t be shared. It’s also worth noting that this applies to all content and not just things that any advanced algorithm believes to be”fake news.”
So, if you want to send that link to the funniest kitty cat on the Internet to twenty of your friends, you simply won’t be able to as a forwarded message. Users will be able to copy and paste a link to as many users as they want in as many conversations as they want but the Forward functionality will be limited going forward.
WhatsApp isn’t currently taking away any functionality or imposing any additional restrictions on content. For the time being. The app will continue to be the most popular messaging platform for over 1 billion people worldwide but could this be the start of additional censorship coming to the app?
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