WHATSAPP is attempting to curb the spread of hoax messages by imposing text-forwarding limits.
The hugely popular messaging app has become a hotbed for the spread of fake news during the coronavirus crisis.
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Many users are sharing bizarre conspiracy theories – including one widely-debunked claim that 5G caused coronavirus.
Now if a message has been forwarded on five times when it reaches you, you’ll only be able to pass that message on to one other chat.
You’ll be able to see double-arrows next to messages that have been forwarded on many times.
It’s a bid to reduce “virality” of hoax messages, according to WhatsApp.
“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful,” WhatsApp explained.
“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.”
Perhaps the main problem for WhatsApp is that the platform is near-impossible to police.
One of WhatsApp’s main selling points to users is encryption – jumbling your texts in transit so hackers can’t read them.
But this also means WhatsApp – or anyone else – is unable to read them too, preventing moderation.
That’s in contrast to an open platform like Facebook or Twitter, where content can be policed.
WhatsApp is also testing a few other features to prevent fake news from spreading.
In the beta version of WhatsApp, a magnifying glass icon is appearing next to frequently forwarded messages.
You can use this to send the text to a web search, so you can find news results or other sources of info.
It’s a way to check a message before forwarding it on, and should make users think twice before mindlessly passing chain texts along.
However, WhatsApp hasn’t confirmed whether this feature will be rolled out more widely.
WhatsApp says it bans two million accounts a month for trying to send bulk or automated messages.
And last month, it launched a Coronavirus Information Hub inside the app, to deliver verified advice to users.
The UK Government also teamed up with WhatsApp to launch a coronavirus advice chatbot.
It’s free for anyone to text, and is updated regularly with new information.
In other news, find out how to fingerprint lock your WhatsApp chats.
This is how to read WhatsApp texts without the sender knowing.
You can sign up to the beta version of the app to get all of the latest features before the general public.
And another secret trick lets you change your WhatsApp font to confuse your mates.
What else do you think tech firms should be doing to help tackle the coronavirus crisis? Let us know in the comments!
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