You can now only forward a message to five different users on Whatsapp

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Whatsapp has capped the number of times you can forward a message, in a move that's designed to limit the spread of misinformation on the popular messaging app. 

You can now only forward a message to five different users or groups. The limit was previously imposed in India in July 2018, after the spread of rumors on social media platforms was linked to a spate of mob-violence and killings.

Although Whatsapp's end-to-end encryption has proved popular among users who want to keep their private data secure, it also means that Whatsapp is unable to determine where messages originate.

In the past, this has made the app the perfect breeding ground for rumors and 'fake news' to spread rapidly amongst users; until now, users could forward a message up to 20 times. 

As well as being a possible cause of the violence in India,  the easy spread of unverified information via Whatsapp has been linked to the successful presidential campaign of Brazil's far right leader, Jair Bolsanaro

Slow it down

The new restriction on message forwarding is currently being rolled out  to users globally, as part of an update. 

Speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 21, VP for policy and communications at WhatsApp, Victoria Grand said: “We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today.”

Whether the new limit will be effective in curbing the spread of misinformation won't become clear right away; after all, there is nothing to stop a user who receives a forwarded message to forward it on five times themselves. So it's more likely that the restriction will slow the spread of viral content on the platform, rather than eradicate it completely.

Via Reuters