WhatsApp cuts message forwarding to stop viral fake news

Govt may sue WhatsApp for abetting lynchings

The company, owned by Facebook, said this week that it had studied the way that WhatsApp was used by a particular Indian political party - which it did not name - in a recent state election in Karnataka, saying that campaign operatives formed dozens of WhatsApp groups, added telephone numbers and used those groups to send thousands of politically oriented spam messages.

We believe that these changes - which we'll continue to evaluate - will help keep WhatsApp the way it was created to be: "a private messaging app", the company announced in a blog post.

WhatsApp in India has come under scrutiny after forwarded messages on the platform have allegedly incited mob-fury, triggering multiple cases of lynching across the country, where there are more than 230 million monthly active users. In India, where WhatsApp's mainstream popularity is legit spinning out of control, that limit will be five conversations, and media messages are also to be stripped away of a quick forward button that was apparently being abused.

"There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative or inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies".

So what changes for the WhatsApp users in India?

Once the restrictions on WhatsApp forwards are in place - it will take a while as everyone updates the WhatsApp in their phones - the new steps will mean you will have to make some effort to share that viral message with others. WhatsApp wants to limit the number of chats for a forwarded message.

"If (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action", the information technology ministry said.

The latest attack last week, in which one man was killed and three others were seriously injured, prompted the government to send its second warning to WhatsApp in less than a month.

It addition, it said it will remove the "quick forward button" next to media messages, making sending on messages more cumbersome.

The company is applying a more stringent limit on forwarding to users in India, where the spread of misleading messages over the past year has led to a nationwide spree of some 30 lynchings of people suspected to be kidnappers.

"How they explained it to us in a presentation is that if a person wanted to forward one message to 100 people, earlier he could do it easily".

Just like every other popular social networking, instant messaging, or news aggregation platform under the sun, WhatsApp has been having trouble keeping the spread of misinformation in check. But now WhatsApp has realized that this ease of forwarding is being misused to spread fake audios and videos.

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