WhatsApp limiting message forwarding in effort to stop coronavirus misinformation

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WhatsApp announced Tuesday it will limit users’s ability to forward messages in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus misinformation.

Last year, the Facebook-owned service marked messages that had been forwarded several times with two arrows, denoting that they were less personal compared to others.

On Tuesday, it introduced a new limit on such messages, making it so they can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.

“Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.

“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,” the company wrote.

WhatsApp also announced Tuesday that it is working with the World Health Organization and national governments to boost the visibility of vetted information about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The policy change comes after a group of Democratic senators sent a letter to Facebook about misinformation on WhatsApp.

“With over 2 billion users worldwide and widespread use of the app in the United States – particularly among the immigrant community – it is imperative that Facebook act to stop the spread of factually-inaccurate and outright dangerous information about the coronavirus via WhatsApp,” Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote to Mark Zuckerberg.

The senators cited reports of misinformation spreading on the messaging service including an advisory claiming to be from the United Nation’s Children Fund telling people to avoid cold foods and a claim that anti-malaria drug chloroquine phosphate has been approved to combat COVID-19.

Tags Bob Menendez Coronavirus Dick Durbin Facebook Instant messaging Mark Zuckerberg Mazie Hirono misinformation Social media WhatsApp

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