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WhatsApp introducing change to combat spread of Covid-19 misinformation

By Darragh Murphy

April 7, 2020 at 9:26am

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WhatsApp is set to introduce a new limit on message forwarding in an attempt to stop the spread of misinformation.

Amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, many people have received spurious WhatsApp messages that have been forwarded on by somebody else and it has become a serious issue.

An Taoiseach recently implored the public to stop the spread of misinformation on WhatsApp and now the messaging company has taken measures to limit the amount of forwarding that is taking place on its platform.

The update will see users who receive a frequently forwarded message (one which has been forwarded more than five times) unable to send it to multiple chats at the same time.

Users will still be able to forward messages individually but WhatsApp hopes the change will help in limiting the spread of false information.

A WhatsApp spokesperson wrote in a blogpost: "Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not. We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organise public moments of support for frontline health workers. However, 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. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.

"In addition to this change, we are working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information. Together these trusted authorities have sent hundreds of millions of messages directly to people requesting information and advice. You can learn more about these efforts, as well as how to submit potential myths, hoaxes and rumours to fact checking organisations, on our Coronavirus Information Hub.

"We believe that now more than ever people need to be able to connect privately. Our teams are hard at work to keep WhatsApp running reliably during this unprecedented global crisis. We’ll continue to listen to your feedback and improve ways for people to share with each other on WhatsApp."

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