WhatsApp Launching Test To Limit Forwarding Of Messages To 5 Chats Only

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In India - the nation where people forward more WhatsApp content than anywhere else - WhatsApp-spread fake news is inciting mob violence and literally getting people killed.

Sources familiar with the matter tell TechCrunch that users outside of India will be limited to forwarding messages to 20 chats. So, now the Facebook-owned company is conducting a test to limit the number of forwarded messages that are being shared between the people and lower the limit of five chats at once, a user can communicate with another person or a group.

The WhatsApp team, however, never mentions that violence is the reason for the changes in its blog post, simply asserting that the goal of the control changes is to maintain the app's "feeling of intimacy" and "keep WhatsApp the way it was created to be: a private messaging app".

Earlier this month, the company also launched a test of a feature that would label forwarded messages as such, thereby distinguishing them from private messages.

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With the recent criticism against social media platforms over the fake news, companies like including WhatsApp, Fakebook and Twitter are taking measures to curb the spread of misinformation.

However, a WhatsApp spokeswoman said that the firm is working closely with the Indian government, NPCI and multiple banks including our payment service providers to expand the feature to more people. "When rumors and fake news get propagated. the medium used for such propagation can not evade responsibility".

In rural communities, it is often the primary way people access the internet, but so far this year, false messages about child abductors have helped to trigger mass beatings of more than a dozen people - at least three of whom have died.

The government today shot off another notice to WhatsApp asking it to come out with effective solutions to curb the menace of fake news beyond just labelling forwards. Recently, 30 people were arrested after a 2,000-person mob became incensed by WhatsApp rumours of a child kidnapping and lynched a man.

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With more than 20 crore users, India is WhatsApp's biggest market. "If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action", it had warned.

The announcement comes after a spate of mob lynchings were linked to messages that circulated on WhatsApp groups.

"Together we can fight false information", read full-page advertisements in some top English language-newspapers, part of a series that will also feature in regional-language dailies. The government has claimed that the company was not doing enough to combat the "rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes".

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