WhatsApp began a test in July of limiting the number of people users could forward messages to, eventually capping that number at 20 globally and five in India due to both the climate in that country and the fact that people there used its forwarding features the most.
This week, the limit that had been imposed in India was extended globally with the goal of stemming the tide of misinformation and rumors, meaning all users of the Facebook-owned messaging application can only forward messages to five chats simultaneously.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said, “WhatsApp carefully evaluated this test and listened to user feedback over a six-month period. The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world. Starting today, all users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once, which will help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts. We’ll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience and, over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content.”
WhatsApp added that during the six-month test period, forwarded messages shared via its platform were down 25 percent in India.
The update began rolling out on Android Monday, with iOS to follow shortly.
Fanny Potkin, Jessica Damiana and Ana Mano of Reuters pointed out that the app’s end-to-end encryption enables the sharing of text, photos and videos without any oversight by WhatsApp or independent fact checkers, and they referenced instances in Brazil where the app came under fire, with claims that far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro used WhatsApp to spread lies about his opponent, as well as the app’s use to stir up support for a truckers’ strike in the country last May.