WhatsApp tests limiting message forwarding to 5 chats in India

The move has been taken to limit the mob lynchings triggered by false incendiary messages in India

The company, owned by Facebook, said this week that it had studied the way that WhatsApp was used by a particular Indian political party - which it did not name - in a recent state election in Karnataka, saying that campaign operatives formed dozens of WhatsApp groups, added telephone numbers and used those groups to send thousands of politically oriented spam messages.

WhatsApp added in a blog post that these changes will help to keep the app as it was created to be - a private messaging app.

Beatings and deaths triggered by false incendiary messages in India, WhatsApp's biggest market with more than 200 million users, caused a public relations nightmare, sparking calls from authorities for immediate action.

"This change is going to make it hard for people to forward messages, it's going to add a layer of friction to the process", said Nikhil Pahwa, a co-founder of advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation.

Demanding more details about its payment services (WhatsApp Pay), the government of India has put Whatsapp payment service nationwide launch on hold.

It also showcases WhatsApp's inclination on being a more responsible platform, which the Government of India insists on, as it shot off another notice to WhatsApp asking for "effective solutions beyond just labelling forwards". This means that a user can only forward a media message five times from the same account.

WhatsApp limits message forwarding to fight the spread of fake news
WhatsApp caps message forwarding to 5 chats, scraps quick forward option

While announcing this new measure, Whatsapp has informed that Indians forward most number of messages, anywhere in the world.

The news comes after one man lost his life and two others were severely beaten near Handikera, India after false allegations of child abduction against the men had been spread using WhatsApp. It also warned the company that mediums used for propagation of rumours are liable to be treated as "abettors" and can face legal consequences if they remain "mute spectators".

Coming to the WhatsApp quick forward disabling feature, if a user forwards a media file for five users and crosses the limit, then WhatsApp will disable the button. As you can imagine, the details of these unfortunate events are chilling, but perhaps WhatsApp's upcoming forwarding limits can help stop the bloodshed. This new update is in addition to the changes made to forwarding, in an attempt to manage fake news and spread of rumours.

The Economic Times on Friday reported that senior WhatsApp officials had met with officials from the Election Commission and major political parties to assure them of the company's intentions to prevent misuse of the platform in India's coming election cycle.

"Rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp", it said. The company's taken out full-page advertisements in prominent English and Hindi newspapers warning readers on fake news.

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