WhatsApp limits forwards in bid to stop misinformation

In a bid to curb misinformation campaigns, WhatsApp is imposing a limit on the number of times a user can forward a message. (WhatsApp)

WhatsApp is imposing a new limit on the number of individuals or groups that a message can be forwarded to in a bid to curb rumors and misinformation campaigns. The cap, which will set the new limit to five globally, is an expansion of a similar rule imposed in India last summer after rumors led to killings and violent lynching attempts.

“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, said at an event in Indonesia, according to CNBC.

The messaging service and platform, which Facebook acquired for $22 billion in 2014, has more than 1.5 billion users and is increasingly under pressure to halt the spread of misinformation. Forwards were previously capped at 20 groups or individuals.

It’s unclear how or if the new global limit on forwarded messages, which is being rolled out today, will effectively stop the spread of fake news, hoaxes and manipulated photos. Groups on WhatsApp can include up to 256 individuals and the app’s end-to-end encryption makes it difficult to determine the origin or veracity of messages that stoke unrest.

RELATED: Report: Verizon to launch RCS messaging in early 2019

While platforms like WhatsApp cut deep into SMS over the last decade, wireless carriers are beginning to roll out a new global messaging standard that replicates many of the features users have come to enjoy from third-party apps. RCS, which allows text- and media-based messages to flow unimpeded between carriers and devices, has been adopted by Sprint, US Cellular, Google Fi and T-Mobile to a degree, but AT&T is using a proprietary version of RCS and Verizon is planning to start supporting the protocol soon.