If you check out your WhatsApp, you’ll see that you can forward a message only to five individuals or to five groups in India and 20 individuals or 20 groups in the rest of the world. This new restriction came with the spread of false news through the app and was first tested in India in July.
According to BBC, the Facebook-owned messaging app was asked by India’s government to take action after some deadly attacks, with the number of people dead rising to over 17 people:
The violence has been blamed on rumours of child kidnappings, spread over WhatsApp, which have led people to attack strangers.
Police say it is proving hard to get people to believe that the messages are false.
The problem with India is that it has over a billion active mobile phone connections, with millions of Indians just starting to go online, meaning that they’re inundated with news which they have no idea if they are real or fake:
“Suddenly people from rural areas in particular are inundated with information and are unable to distinguish what is real from what is not. They tend to believe whatever is sent to them,” explained Pratik Sinha (founder of fact-checking website Alt news).
Is This Limit Meaningful?
With the restriction successfully functional, the limit will be expanded to all markets all over the world.
If a user tries to forward a message to more than 5 people or 5 chats, the app will give you the following message:
However, a group can have up to 256 people, so if one user has five groups of 256 people, it could forward a message to 1,280 people. Nonetheless, users tend to have smaller groups, but this doesn’t mean you cannot spread fake news easily, especially if each of the 1,280 users were to also forward that message.
Additionally, you can just forward that message to only 5 groups and then go back to that message and forward it to another 5 groups and so on. Bottom line: Is this restriction meaningful?
Expect to see the forwarding limit on WhatsApp Android app in today’s update and the iOS version in the next few days.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.