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WhatsApp to limit forwarding to stop COVID-19 misinformation

7 April, 2020

WhatsApp is placing new restrictions on message forwarding in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-related misinformation.

The Facebook-owned app said in a blog post that messages and media that had already been shared more than five times will now only be allowed to be shared with one group or person at a time, in order to limit mass forwarding.

This builds on the restrictions the company introduced in 2019, which limited sharing of forwarded messages to only five people or groups at the time. The initiative decreased overall sharing on WhatsApp by 25 per cent.

“We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful … However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation,” the company said in its blog post.

“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”

Since news first broke of the COVID-19 outbreak, misinformation has been a common sight on social media and TV – from televangelists claiming that drinking a silver solution will cure the disease within 12 hours, to conspiracy theorists spreading rumours that the UK’s 5G infrastructure is the cause of the virus.

It’s important that children know how to think critically about the things they see online so they can identify misinformation. Find out more about how to separate the fake from the facts on Parent Info.

WhatsApp will also be focusing on connecting people with information by trustworthy sources, sending official government guidance and advice to people via direct message when they ask for it.

In the current climate, we’re relying on digital technologies more than ever to stay connected to those close to us and WhatsApp can be a great, secure tool for connecting with friends and family even as the government’s social distancing policy remains in place.

“We believe that now more than ever people need to be able to connect privately. Our teams are hard at work to keep WhatsApp running reliably during this unprecedented global crisis. We’ll continue to listen to your feedback and improve ways for people to share with each other on WhatsApp,” the company said.

Find out more about how families can use Whatsapp in a safer way and have more enjoyable chatting experiences in our Parent Guide.


WhatsApp: A parent's guide

Coronavirus: How to help children spot fake news