Dealing with rumours and misinformation has increasingly become more difficult over the past years, with more and more people getting access to smartphones. This is especially bad in social media spaces, where it is easy to create an echo chamber where users of a similar mindset share unfounded facts that they want to be true rather than trying to find out whether what they are sharing is actually the truth instead of false information that they want to believe in.
Think about the number of times you have seen obviously wrong information being shared around in WhatsApp friends, family, and even work group chats. This kind of misinformation has the potential to cause harm to people, especially when the world has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen a dramatic increase in vaccine misinformation both in favour and against.
Various social media platforms have measures to deal with this kind of misinformation, but totally getting rid of the problem is almost impossible without hurting the platform’s user base. Back in 2019, WhatsApp introduced a limit to the number of chats you could forward a message to at once. Fast-forward to 2020 at the height of the pandemic, WhatsApp lowered this limit to just one conversation.
This restriction was put in place to create extra steps for the user when trying to mass share a message to multiple chats, in the belief that the extra hassle in sharing the messages would act as a deterrent from sharing a particular message too many times. Now, according to WhatsApp watcher WABetaInfo, the Meta-owned messaging platform is going a step further by restricting the forwarding of all messages to just a single group chat.
At the moment, WhatsApp has in place a system that marks frequently forwarded messages. Once a message has been shared more than four times, it gets marked with a frequently forwarded tag in the form of a double arrow and a Forwarded label on top.
In the WhatsApp beta for Android v22.214.171.124 which WABetaInfo has access to, users are shown a warning “Forwarded messages can only be sent to one group chat” whenever they try to forward a regular message to more than one group chat. However, you will still be able to forward the message to other group chats, but you would have to manually do it for each and every group chat.
Keep in mind though that not all features that get to the beta make it to the final release that all users have access to. Depending on the behaviour of those who have access to the beta, WhatsApp might decide to move forward with pushing the update to all users, shelving it or making small teaks before it is released to the public.
If the change in the WhatsApp Beta makes it to the final release, it will be interesting to see how the user base reacts to it. This is because making radical changes in an attempt to inconvenience users from easily sharing information might spectacularly backfire on the company, forcing people to look for other alternatives like Telegram and Signal, which have been enjoying increased popularity over the past year or so as they have fewer restrictions and even offer more features than WhatsApp.