In Brief

How WhatsApp plans to curb fake news

Facebook-owned firm introduces message forwarding limit following mob lynchings in India

WhatsApp is making drastic changes to its massage forwarding features in a bid to stop fake news being spread on its platform.  

The announcement comes after the Indian government yesterday blamed fake news going viral for a recent spate of mob violence. The lynchings have claimed the lives of least 18 people in India since April, the BBC reports.

In a bid to tackle the problem, users of the free chat app in India will only be able to forward messages to five groups at a time, making it more difficult to spread spurious stories and videos, The Independent reports. The country is not only WhatsApp’s biggest market but also, until now, the nation where users use the forwarding tool most. 

In the rest of the world, people will be limited to sending messages on to 20 groups. The forwarding limit for all countries was previously 250 groups. 

The “quick forward” button, which allows users to instantly share videos and images, has also been scrapped in India.

Indian authorities threatened to take legal action unless the Facebook-owned company made changes to its service in the wake of the recent lynchings. The violence has been linked to false stories of child kidnappings that quickly spread via message forwarding on WhatsApp. 

The firm’s end-to-end encryption, a security system that hides a user’s identity and messages from potential hackers, has made it difficult for authorities to track down those spreading fake news on the app, says Business Insider

In a blog post yesterday, WhatsApp said: “We believe that these changes - which we'll continue to evaluate - will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app.”

The company has also bought “full-page newspaper ads” in India to warn users about spreading fake news stories, adds TechCrunch.

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