Misinformation spreads faster than facts these days. The juicier and the more outrageous a story is, the more likely it is to run around social networks and messaging apps like wildfire, so even uncle Gerard whom you haven't heard from in two years ends up sending it to you so you "know better." Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and every app with a large number of users suffers from this and has been taking measures to combat this. WhatsApp is now taking a more drastic measure to stop the spread of viral messages by prohibiting you from forwarding them in bulk.

The change only affects frequently forwarded messages on the app and will restrict sharing to one chat at a time. Previously, WhatsApp lowered the limit from 20 chats to 5 in early 2019, and that is still valid for regular messages. But for viral ones, it will be narrowed down to one. If you want to send the message to multiple persons and groups, you'll need to select, tap forward, and choose a new chat multiple times. Sure, that won't stop anyone from spreading misinformation if they're hellbent on doing so, but it'll make it really tedious and discourage most users from doing so repeatedly.

Affected messages are frequently forwarded ones, which are easily distinguished by the double arrow before the Forwarded label on top of them. These texts, images, videos, and voice notes, likely originated outside of your close network and were sent multiple times from one person to another until they reached you. Not all of them are bad — WhatsApp admits that there are memes, funny videos, and useful information being sent this way — but users have been recently overwhelmed by forwards, especially ones with wrong information, and the company hopes to curb that.

The top pic is a regular forward, the bottom one has the double arrows and is frequently forwarded.

This extreme measure is one of many that WhatsApp is taking to combat coronavirus misinformation. It's still rolling out and isn't live for us yet.

Live

The restriction is now live in WhatsApp, on both the stable (v2.20.108) and beta (v2.20.122) channels. As expected, this doesn't affect regular messages (still limited to five at a time), just frequently forwarded ones. Thanks, Moshe!

WhatsApp Messenger
WhatsApp Messenger
Developer: WhatsApp Inc.
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