WhatsApp tests limiting message forwarding to 5 chats in India

WhatsApp tests limiting message forwarding to 5 chats in India

WhatsApp tests limiting message forwarding to 5 chats in India

Now, it is safe to say that it's not because of WhatsApp that people are dying.

Lynchings are nothing new in India, but the spread of smartphones - there are a billion plus handsets, and data is cheap - to even the most remote corners has enabled rumours to be shared at lightning speed. But WhatsApp shares some blame.

Well-known and generally liked, including by yours truly, for its simplicity and convenience, WhatsApp needs to make more changes to curb the escalation of fake news. In India, the platform will also test a lower limit of five chats, individual or group chats, and then remove the "quick forward" button next to media messages. Effectively, with this move, WhatsApp is putting a speed-breaker on the misinformation highway.

The messaging service had said it was giving users controls and information to help them stay safe, and that it planned to run long-term public safety advertising campaigns. It's just that now they will have put in a just wee bit extra effort to spread misinformation.

The Centre's notice came four days after a software engineer was lynched by a mob over child lifting rumours that were spread on the social media, including WhatsApp, in Bidar in Karnataka. Numerous messages that are believed to have triggered violence were forwarded to multiple groups which had more than 100 members each.

Late previous year, a fake version of WhatsApp received over a million downloads before it was pulled from the Google Play Store.

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That is some sort of deterrent but not much.

"Reports in the media resonate the general sentiment that there is much more that needs to be done by WhatsApp".

"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", it added.

Nikhil Pahwa, co-founder of US-based advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, told Al Jazeera that although the measures introduced by WhatsApp ought to be welcomed, the platform and authorities must do more in order to prevent further lynchings.

It's true that challenges before WhatsApp are big. "We basically use the messaging service to coordinate with the officials". Its users will not like it in the name of monitoring fake news, it starts to scan or monitor chats and dilute the privacy.

The Indian government has been pressuring WhatsApp to do something to address these recent bouts of violence; earlier on Thursday, India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology threatened the company with legal action if it didn't figure out some effective way to stop the mob violence.

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