WhatsApp has now begun testing a new feature wherein a group admin can prevent users from sending “frequently forwarded messages.” WhatsApp will soon label forwarded messages with the number of times they’ve been forwarded.
WhatsApp is testing the feature only for Android since it is the most dominant mobile OS in India. A message is labeled as ‘Frequently Forwarded’ once it is forwarded more than 5 times; it is marked with double arrows on its 5th forward. Group admins will now be able to control this feature. It is meant to add friction to the spread of messages and prevent fake news and rumors. It is worth noting that this feature is still in beta test, and there is no defined timeline by when the feature would launch for the general public. Previously reported beta features like ‘Search by Image’ – meant to control the spread of fake news – have not gone live on the app yet.
This new feature can be activated from within the Group settings. No member of the group other than the administrator can see or edit the “Frequently forwarded messages” option in the settings. On the other hand, the admin can also choose to allow participants to send frequently forwarded messages to the group with “Allow” and “Don’t allow” options. However, a user can always copy the frequently forwarded message and send it as a fresh message, but this action will slow the process of spreading the news.
WhatsApp has been blamed for the spread of rumors and fake news, which have led to the deaths of 40 people being lynched in India over the past two years. The deaths have triggered government scrutiny of the platform and raised issues regarding privacy of users vs. public safety. Also, its end-to-end encryption feature has irked the Indian government, which has demanded that the platform have traceability and accountability. Traceability would imply breaking end-to-end encryption, a design that is central to WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is currently testing this feature for the Android phones and as of now no tracks have been found on the iOS app.