WhatsApp Imposes Stricter Message Forwarding Rules to Fight Coronavirus Misinformation

WhatsApp reduced the number of chats to which users can share frequently forwarded content to one at a time.
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Facebook-owned  (FB) - Get Report messaging app WhatsApp announced new restrictions on its platform designed to help stop the spread of misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

WhatsApp now will only allow messages that did not originate from a close contact to be forwarded one chat at a time, versus the previous limit of five. 

Last year, the company started alerting users to messages that had been forwarded many times by labeling those messages with double arrows to indicate that they did not originate from a close contact. 

"We believe that now more than ever people need to be able to connect privately. Our teams are hard at work to keep WhatsApp running reliably during this unprecedented global crisis," the company said in a blog post Tuesday. 

The company said that while it encourages forwarding messages with helpful information and funny videos, among other types of content, it has seen a "significant increase" in forwarded messages that feel overwhelming and "can contribute to the spread of misinformation."

Among those messages have been recent hoaxes linking 5G mobile networks to the spread of the coronavirus, which may have contributed to people setting fire to cell phone towers in the U.K. 

The attacks led the U.K. government to urge social media platforms to combat the spread of misinformation on their sites. 

WhatsApp also said that it is working directly with governments and non-government organizations, including the World Health Organization, to help connect people with accurate information. 

Those organizations collectively have sent hundreds of millions of messages directly to WhatsApp users requesting information. WhatsApp has also set up a 'Coronavirus Information Hub' with additional information and resources.

Facebook shares were rising 2.9% to $170.38 in pre-market trading on Tuesday. 

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