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WhatsApp curbs spread of viral COVID-19 misinformation by 70%

The move was made amid rising concerns from governments across the globe that the app was enabling viral hoaxes to proliferate.

WhatsApp curbs spread of viral COVID-19 misinformation by 70%
[Photo: Jacob Boavista/Unsplash; mattthewafflecat/Pixabay]

After introducing limits earlier this month to the number of times users can forward messages on its platform, WhatsApp has announced that the measures have successfully achieved a 70% reduction in the spread of “highly forwarded messages” that could contain misinformation about the coronavirus, among other topics.

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On April 7, Facebook-owned WhatsApp limited the ability of users to forward a frequently forwarded message to more than one person or group at a time. The previous limit was five. The move was made amid rising concerns from governments across the globe that the app was enabling viral hoaxes to proliferate—potentially endangering public health as the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the world.

Announcing that its limits have achieved success, a WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch: “We recently introduced a limit to sharing ‘highly forwarded messages’ to just one chat. Since putting into place this new limit, globally there has been a 70% reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp.”

“This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations. WhatsApp is committed to doing our part to tackle viral messages,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson did not say anything to suggest the limit would be lifted once the pandemic became under control, so it’s safe to expect that restrictions on “highly forwarded messages” will be in place for some time—and perhaps could even be a permanent feature of the app.

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