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Four One One

This is why you won’t forward WhatsApp messages more than five times

WhatsApp has limited the number of times a user can forward a single message to other chats in bid to curb spreading of fake news. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA

Owners of messaging platform WhatsApp believe they let users deviate from the app’s original purpose as a personal messaging enabler by allowing too much forwarding of messages, and now they have capped the number of times a person can instantly forward a message.

With the limitation, anyone with the latest version of WhatsApp cannot forward a single message to more than five chats at once.

Before the update, if you selected a message and elected to forward it, WhatsApp would allow you to choose up to 20 chats — be it groups or individuals — then forward to them all at a go.

But after the update issued on Monday, WhatsApp will not let you tick more than five chats when forwarding a message.
India trial

The Facebook-owned company said on its blog on Monday that this will reduce the number of forwarded messages as it has happened in India during a six-month trial period with the forwarding limitation.

“WhatsApp carefully evaluated this test and listened to user feedback over a six-month period. The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world. Starting today, all users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once, which will help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts,” it said in a post.

The firm chose India to pilot the limitation because by its own observation, it is “where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”.

AFP reports that the decision followed threats by the Indian government to take action after mobs butchered more than 20 people accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in widely-circulated WhatsApp messages. Facebook subsequently ran newspaper ads to raise awareness about fake news.

Forwarding label

WhatsApp has, however, steered clear of mentioning the aspect of spreading hate in its commentary on the matter.

“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 new features, we’ve been careful to try and keep that feeling of intimacy, which people say they love,” WhatsApp stated in a July 19, 2018 post when it announced the start of the limiting test in India.

“A few years back we added a feature to WhatsApp that lets you forward a message to multiple chats at once. Today, we’re launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp,” they added.

The limitation on the number of chats one can forward messages to follows another update in July 2018 which introduced labelling of forwarded chats to let users know they were not receiving an original post.

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