WhatsApp renews measures to stop misinformation going viral during COVID-19 pandemic

By Rashi Varshney|7th Apr 2020
To constrain virality and place limits on how people can send messages amid the coronavirus pandemic, WhatsApp is also allowing users to find out more information about such messages .
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Facebook-owned WhatsApp has reduced the limit of forwarded messages on the instant messaging platform in the wake of misinformation spread amid the pandemic COVID-19.


WhatsApp said forwarded messages can now only be forwarded to one chat at a time. "This limit kicks in once a message has been previously forwarded five times or more. "
WhatsApp



To constrain virality and place limits on how people can send messages, WhatsApp is also allowing users to find out more information around these kinds of messages.


"That idea involves displaying a magnifying glass icon next to these frequently forwarded messages, giving users the option to send that message to a web search where they can find news results or other sources of information. Double-checking these messages before forwarding may help reduce the spread of rumors. This feature is currently in testing and we’ll keep you updated on next steps," WhatsApp said in a statement


WhatsApp has been fighting misinformation for sometime now. In January 2019, it had set global limits on forwarded messages to five chats to constrain virality. It also introduced new privacy settings and an invite system to help users decide who can add them to groups.


WhatsApp said that it bans two million accounts per month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages. It has also published a white paper on the impact of these efforts.


To pitch in for battling coronavirus, the instant messenger also announced the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and UNDP. The purpose of the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information hub is for health workers, educators, small businesses, and others to support one another during this crisis. 


Most recently, it launched the WHO Coronavirus Health Alert service on WhatsApp to give prompt, reliable and official information to people within 24 hours a day, worldwide.


Specifically for India, it announced the MyGov Corona Helpdesk on WhatsApp in partnership with the Government of India. Similar services have been introduced in several states of India (Delhi +91 88000 07722, Maharashtra +91 20 2612 739, Gujarat +91 74330 00104, Telangana +91 90006 58658 and Kerala +91 90722 20183) to enable users to find credible and accurate information across the country both in English and their specific regional language, with more helplines expected to launch in the coming weeks.


(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

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