Instant messaging app WhatsApp has finally rolled out the limited 'forward message' option for India, which restricts a forward message to just five users, the company said on Wednesday. The Facebook-owned company has been under fire ever since several incidents of lynching, linked to rumours spreading through WhatsApp, were reported from different parts of India. "The limit has started to appear this week for people in India who are on the current version of WhatsApp," the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Reports suggest WhatsApp will also delete the 'quick forward' button placed next to media messages. These steps are aimed at discouraging mass forwards in India, which, WhatsApp says, involves more messages, photographs, and videos than any other country in the world. "We believe that these changes -- which we'll continue to evaluate -- will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app," the company had said in a statement.
The company said it will also publish a new video, explaining the importance of the 'forward' label to educate people on how to spot fake news. The company has urged people to double check facts in case they are not sure about its source. "As a reminder, you can report spam or block a contact in one tap and can always reach out to WhatsApp directly for help," said the company in its blog post.
While WhatsApp has decided to cap the 'forward message' limit to five in India, it allows users to send forwards to up to 20 users in other countries.
In the past three months, India has seen 39 incidents of lynching due to mass misinformation spread on WhatsApp. The government has also come under pressure to take steps to stop such incidents from happening. Three weeks ago, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sent out a letter to the telecom companies, asking them to explore various possible options and confirm how social media networks like Instagram or Facebook or WhatsApp or Telegram, etc, can be blocked on the internet.
However, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has asked the government to find out "more effective" ways to curb the spreading of fake news, indicating that blocking mobile apps can't be a solution for the problem. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is also testing a new 'suspicious links' feature on its Android Beta platform. The feature essentially marks a link red if the app finds it suspicious. If the user still goes on to click on the link, a pop-up will try to warn them and confirm their action.
(Edited by Manoj Sharma)