Facing heat, WhatsApp says can forward msgs to just 5

New Delhi, July 20. Under pressure to stop rumours and fake news triggering a spate of horrific lynching incidents, WhatsApp on Friday announced curbs on its service in India, including limiting forwarding messages to five chats at once.

In a statement, WhatsApp said it is launching a test to limit forwarding on the app. In addition, it said it will “remove the quick forward button next to media messages”. “We believe that these changes, which we will continue to evaluate, will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” the company said in a statement.

WhatsApp, which had added a feature to let people forward a message to multiple chats at once a few years ago, had earlier this month launched a “forward label” to identify messages that are not original and have been forwarded.

More than 20 persons have been killed by mobs in the past two months across the country after being accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in viral messages circulated on WhatsApp.

“In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we will also test a lower limit of five chats at once and we’ll remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” it said.

On Thursday, the government had, in a strongly worded statement, expressed displeasure at what WhatsApp was doing to curb the menace and asked for “more effective solutions” that can bring in “accountability and facilitate enforcement of law” as well as bring in “traceability and accountability when a provocative or inflammatory message is detected”.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it had been conveyed “in unmistakable terms” that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response.

EC gets assurance ahead of elections

Ahead of the General Election due in 2019, WhatsApp has informed the Election Commission that it would take steps to prevent its misuse for spreading fake information. The company executives, who have been holding meetings here with EC and IT ministry officials, also assured it would bring in its fake news verification model, ‘Verificado’’, which was used in Mexico and Brazil elections. The executives also informed the EC an eye would be kept on spam messaging.

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