WhatsApp Restricts Message Forwarding, To Halt ‘Misinformation’

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Facebook limits WhatsApp message forwarding to just five people, down from the previous 20

In an effort to stop the spread of misinformation and rumours, WhatsApp is limiting the forwarding of messages to just five people.

The previous limit had been 20 people, but WhatsApp had applied the restriction six months ago in India in an effort to halt mob killings in that country, which were blamed on false messages spread by the messaging platform.

The announcement that WhatsApp will spread this restriction worldwide from today was made by executives speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia. That country is facing a general election in three months time.

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Messaging restriction

“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today,” Victoria Grand, vice president for policy and communications at WhatsApp, was quoted by Reuters as saying at an event in the Indonesian capital.

WhatsApp will roll out an update to activate the new forward limit, starting Monday, WhatsApp’s head of communications Carl Woog told Reuters.

It seems that Android users will receive the restriction first, followed by iOS users of WhatsApp.

Facebook of course acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for a staggering $22bn, despite the fact that WhatsApp at the time had a tiny revenue stream.

Encryption debate

WhatsApp, which has around 1.5 billion users, is not liked by authorities, as from 2016 it utilises end-to-end encryption that allows groups of people to exchange messages, pictures, and video with no concerns about surveillance from governments, police or intelligence services.

In March 2017, Khalid Masood, killed four people in Westminster and apparently sent a WhatsApp message two minutes before beginning his assault outside the Houses of Parliament.

At the time, then home secretary Amber Rudd called it “completely unacceptable” that police were unable to access the encrypted WhatsApp messages of Masood.

Facebook has previously denied claims that a WhatsApp ‘backdoor’ could allow governments or others to intercept supposedly encrypted messages.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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