WhatsApp is limiting the number of groups a message can be forwarded to worldwide, with further restrictions in India, where fake news spread through the app has led to mob violence.
Currently users can forward messages on to multiple groups, but the app maker is testing limits of 20 groups globally and 5 groups in India, where “people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”.
It will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages for users in the country.
“As we’ve added new features, we’ve been careful to try and keep that feeling of intimacy, which people say they love,” the company explained in a blog post.
“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 post added.
Last month it was reported around a dozen people wee killed in India as a result of violence incited by fake news spread on WhatsApp related to issues including organ harvesting and child trafficking.
At the time, WhatsApp representative Carl Woog said the company was “working to make it clear when users have received forwarded information and provide controls to group administrators to reduce the spread of unwanted messages in private chats.
WhatsApp recently added labels that indicate when a message has been forwarded. It also took out full-page advertisements in Indian newspapers titled “together we can fight false information” in a bid to raise awareness.
But the Indian government believes WhatsApp is not doing enough. It said if WhatsApp can target users for advertisement purposes, it should be able to use find “explosive messages filled with rumours” and put an end to them.
Not only has it set up a task group to find a way for WhatsApp to help, The Economic Times reported the government will not give the green light for WhatsApp Payments until the matter is resolved.
WhatsApp has been asked by the governments of UK and Brazil to hand over user communications in the past, and in each case it has said it has no access to messages itself and that a “backdoor” is not possible.