The new policy limits users to forwarding certain messages to one “chat” at a time, aiming to limit the rapid propagation of content which is provocative but likely to be false.
The Facebook-owned messaging app is expanding on global measures it put in place last year which restricted the number of times people could pass on frequently forwarded messages to five chats at once.
In recent weeks, “we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.
“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”
Last year, WhatsApp set limits on forwarded messages to five chats at a time, “to constrain virality,” responding to events in India where the rapid proliferation of unverified information led to mob violence.
The new policy applies to messages forwarded “many times” and marked with a double-arrow, indicating that it did not originate from a close contact, according to WhatsApp.
“In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp,” the blog said.
“We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.”
WhatsApp along with its parent Facebook have been scrambling to curb an explosion of rumors and hoaxes about the coronavirus and at the same time seeking to promote verified content.
It comes after bogus conspiracy theories linking 5G mobile networks with COVID-19 appeared to inspire people to set fire to cell phone masts in the U.K. Facebook told CNBC on Monday that it’s started deleting content encouraging attacks on cellular towers and 5G masts.
The attacks resulted in the U.K. government urging social media platforms to take action to combat the spread of such false claims. British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is due to meet with tech companies this week to grill them on 5G and coronavirus-related misinformation.
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