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After Violence in India, WhatsApp Places Restrictions on Message Forwarding

By NexChange
Capital Markets, FinTech

WhatsApp is placing limits on the amount of content that users can forward after the Indian government blamed misinformation spread through the service for inciting mob violence that has left more than 20 people dead.

The company, which is owned by Facebook, announced the changes in a blog post.

“Today, we’re launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp,” the company wrote in its blog post. “In India – where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world – we’ll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once and we’ll remove the quick forward button next to media messages.”

For users outside of India, the limit on message forwarding will be capped at 20, according to the Wall Street Journal. WhatsApp also announced in a separate blog post that it would begin labeling forwarded messages so users know that the message they received has been forward to them.

The Journal notes that WhatsApp has also been taking out ads in India’s biggest newspapers “with tips for its users to help them decide ‘if something sent to you on WhatsApp is true.'” However, the Indian government remains unsatisfied with the steps WhatsApp has taken thus far, according to the Journal.

“When rumors and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said. “If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” it added.

The ministry said it had asked WhatsApp to “come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law.”

The steps being taken by WhatsApp to restrict message forwarding comes in response to a series of violent attacks on innocent people who had been accused of kidnapping children through false reports that had been sent through the messaging app. The mob violence has left more than 2o people dead since May.

WhatsApp is wildly popular in India, as the Journal notes, with over 200 million monthly active users.

WhatsApp’s new policy changes come on the heels of parent company Facebook announcing that it would ramp up efforts to remove misinformation from its platform that could lead to violence. Facebook’s efforts come amid growing backlash from users who feel the company hasn’t done enough to curb the spread of false reports on its platform.

Photo: WhatsApp

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