As a measure to prevent the viral spread of hate messages and misinformation, users of Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp would only be able to forward messages to 20 people at a time.
The new limitation of the messaging app would be even stricter in India where there has been multiple incidents of vigilante murders over the past year which were reportedly based on false information hate full content that were widely circulated through the instant messaging app. WhatsApp would allow forwarding of messages to just 5 users at a time. The “quick forward” feature of WhatsApp, which is a button that appears next to photos, videos and links is also being removed in India which is a country according to Facebook where “people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”. the earlier cap on forwarding was on 250 – a limit that was rarely reached by users of WhatsApp.
“We’re horrified by the violence in India, and we’ve announced number of different product changes to help address these issues,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said. “It’s a challenge which requires an action by civil society, government and tech companies.”
According to media reports, after being accused of being child lifters, mob lynching has taken the lives of over 20 people in India.
Compared what is faced by public sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the challenges to combating misinformation are very different for WhatsApp. The instant messaging app is no capable of reading messages that are sent over the platform because they are end-to-end encrypted. This also means that WhatsApp is incapable of conducting any form of scanning either automated or human-driven.
Other attempts have been made by the company in its effort to slow down the spread of viral misinformation and fake news. Such measures include clearly stating that any message that is forwarded by a person sent by another friend or family member did not have its origin either among the friend circle of the family.
In what was the latest case of a lynching of a man based on rumors spread on WhatsApp., 25 people were arr3ested by the police in India on Sunday. Following a very fast spreading of a rumor on WhatsApp that Mohammad Azam, 27, was a child abductor, the man was attacked by a huge mob of about 2000 in southern Karnataka on Friday. Three police were injured in rescue attempts. The attack also left two of Azam’s friends critically injured.
Across all of the online platforms of Facebook, a reputation of being nimble in tackling of bad publicity has bene gained by the company. Facebook announced on Thursday that in case moderators are able to identify an underage account on any of the social media platforms of the company and if the account has bene flagged off for one or more reasons, then the moderators would have the power to put a hold on the account if there is “a strong indication” of te user being underage.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)