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WhatsApp limits message forwarding to curb misinformation spread

You can only forward popular messages to one person at a time, instead of five.

WhatsApp logo on a phone screen
WhatsApp has imposed limits on message forwarding.
Angela Lang/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

WhatsApp is cracking down on messaging forwarding, in an effort to control the spread of misinformation linked to the coronavirus outbreak. If you get a message that's been forwarded more than five times, you can only forward it to one chat at a time.

"We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," WhatsApp said in a blog post Tuesday. "However, we've seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation."

Before now, you could send such messages to five chats at a time -- a limit the Facebook-owned messaging service imposed last year after 2018 mob violence and lynchings in India were linked to false information that spread on the app.

You can still forward messages one at a time, but WhatsApp is hoping that the added friction will discourage people from casually spreading rumors. The company also bans around 2 million accounts a month for attempting to send bulk or automated messages.

WhatsApp teamed up with health officials to create a coronavirus information hub and provided a $1 million grant to fight misinformation linked to the disease. It's also reportedly testing a fact-checking feature for messages.

The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December and has spread worldwide in the months since. As of Tuesday morning, it had infected more than 1.3 million people and caused over 74,000 deaths globally.

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