If you think WhatsApp users in Nigeria forward a lot of broadcast messages – and most of them fake news – then think again! WhatsApp

New WhatsApp forwarding features to help fight viral fake news

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If you think WhatsApp users in Nigeria forward a lot of broadcast messages – and most of them fake news – then think again! WhatsApp users in India forward more messages, pictures, and videos than any other country in the world. Of course that is understandable, considering the population of that country. However, Facebook is putting a new limit on WhatsApp forwarding following a mob action in India was triggered by a forwarded message.

A rumour in which certain people were accused of kidnapping children, among other crimes, was spread via WhatsApp forwarded messages and this led to the death of more than 20 people from mob actions.

New WhatsApp Forwarding Restrictions

This turn of events made the Indian Government instruct WhatsApp to take urgent steps to restrict access to message forwarding. Facebook has responded with two new features. The first is a new limit that restricts the number of people you can forward a WhatsApp message to. The new limit is five (5) people. The second is a feature that marks a forwarded message, so the recipient knows that it did not originate from the sender.

WhatsApp has released a statement after that announcement:

“We built WhatsApp as a private messaging app – a simple, secure, and reliable way to communicate with friends and family and as we’ve added this new features, we’ve been careful to try and keep that feeling of intimacy, which people say they love. We are deeply committed to your safety and privacy which is why WhatsApp is end-to end encrypted, and we’ll continue to improve our app with features like this”.

Now considering the gravity of the lynchings that happened in India, one begins to get a clear picture of how powerful – and potentially dangerous instant messaging and social networking can be when mis-used.

New WhatsApp forwarding to help fight viral fake news

If you have ever been at the receiving end of some of the unverified, and sometimes tasteless, messages that get forwarded or as we put it here, “Sent as received”, this new development must be good news to you.

First Look At The New WhatsApp Forwarding Feature

The new feature that marks forwarded WhatsApp messages has already rolled out here and we were able to have a look. Indeed, forwarded messages are now marked with an arrow and the text, “Forwarded”, in the top left corner of the recipient’s app. The marking is in a faint shade of grey. I am not sure that a lot of people will notice it. Why not red instead of grey? Why not some other colour that draws the reader’s attention?

forwarded whatsapp message

The limitation to five recipients hasn’t rolled out yet to our apps here, but it should soon. In the meantime, I think that the new Whatsapp forwarding notice is a good idea; it just can be better implemented. As it is now, it is not very visible and may not produce the desired results. The 5-recipient limit might be the more effective of the tow new features.

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