WhatsApp is limiting all its members to forwarding any single message up to five times in an effort to tackle the spread of false information on the platform. This policy was introduced in India six months ago after a number of mob lynchings that were blamed on fake reports spread via the service.

WhatsApp announced the decision at an event in Jakarta, Indonesia. ‘ This will keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts. The forward limit will significantly reduce forwarded messages around the world.’

Users could previously forward messages up to twenty times and there can be up to 256 users enrolled in a WhatsApp group. This meant that a single user could forward a message to up to 5,120 people, with the changes this figure is now 1,280. There is nothing, however, to stop those on the receiving end each forwarding the message up to five times themselves.

The restriction comes at a time WhatsApp and Facebook’s other services are under scrutiny for their role in the spread of propaganda and other untruths online. Last week, Facebook announced it had removed 500 pages and accounts allegedly involved in peddling fake news in Central Europe, Ukraine and other Eastern European nations. It also recently announced that it had employed a UK-fact-checking service to flag content on its main platform. However, the use of end-to-end encryption by WhatsApp means its messages can only be read by their senders and recipients, limiting the firm’s ability to spot false reports.

(www.bbc.co.uk/technews 22nd January 19)