Don’t Forward Panic: Will the New WhatsApp Rules Help Curb Misinformation During Covid-19?


Don’t Forward Panic: Will the New WhatsApp Rules Help Curb Misinformation During Covid-19?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

If you’re fed up of people forwarding NASA’s India image from “diya night” on WhatsApp, or how the sound generated from our collective clapping can defeat coronavirus, there is good news for you.

In order to curb the spread of misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic, WhatsApp is introducing new limits on forwarding messages.

Starting today, users can forward messages to only one chat at a time. The move is to curb misinformation during the pandemic, it said in a blog post.

The change doesn’t stop people from forwarding a message to multiple users individually or copy pasting the message and then sending it, but it is still expected to cause a significant dent to the spread of hoaxes and fake news.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic has broken out, journalists, fact checkers and even government institutions have been kept busy with the tsunami of misinformation on the platform, that hosts over a billion users.

WhatsApp also added in its statement that, “In addition to this change, we are working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information. You can learn more about these efforts, as well as how to submit potential myths, hoaxes and rumors to fact-checking organizations, on our Coronavirus Information Hub.”

While we fight the coronavirus pandemic together, it is also important to fight the fake news epidemic and let knowledge guide us. We can do our tiny bit by pointing out false information that we see in our family and office WhatsApp groups. No, the sound waves from our clapping oor the simultaneous lighting of diyas is not going to kill the virus.