WhatsApp tests limiting message forwarding to 5 chats in India

WhatsApp to limit forwarding of messages to 5 chats at a time in a bid to curb rumours in India

The Facebook-owned application believes that these changes will help keep WhatsApp the way it was created to be: a private messaging app.

Now, with the new changes, WhatsApp will limit messaging forward in India. The country forwards "more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world" and this year the app has faced significant challenges in stopping the spread of misinformation via the service.

The ministry also called on WhatsApp to enable the "traceability" of messages when an official request is made.

"When rumors and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation can not evade responsibility and accountability", the government wrote. Global executives of WhatsApp are already in India and engaging with policymakers on various issues that have been confronting the platform.

This essentially means that Indian users will no longer be able to forward a message to more than five people or groups at once. Until now, users could share a message to any number of groups they saw fit, but after the change, sharing will be limited to a maximum of 20 groups for users worldwide. "If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action", the IT ministry said in a statement. It's also set up an internal group to look into other measures the company can take, and consider sending a second notice to force WhatsApp to do more. Not only that, but the instant messaging company will also be removing the quick forward button which appears next to the media message.

The Facebook-owned firm said on Friday that in India it will test limiting the ability of users to forward messages, and will also experiment with a lower limit of five chats at once. On July 11, WhatsApp said it had updated its service to label forwarded messages.

The country has witnessed several lynchings, especially of those mistaken to be child kidnappers, after fake messages were circulated over WhatsApp. The reason India is targeted separately is that in recent months, news articles, containing false information, have been spreading through social media and WhatsApp in particular.

WhatsApp has informed the Election Commission (EC) that it will take various steps ahead of polls to prevent the misuse of its messaging platform, and bring to India its fake news verification model which has been used in other markets.

"How they explained it to us in a presentation is that if a person wanted to forward one message to 100 people, earlier he could do it easily".

"We built WhatsApp as a private messaging app - a simple, secure, and reliable way to communicate with friends and family".

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