A WhatsApp spokesperson announced that frequently forwarded messages have been trimmed by up to 70% within the platform.
Experts are still not discounting a possibility for an eventual resurgence of misinformation. The battle against the Coronavirus has mutated in several forms largely because of the rapid spread of misinformation.
Governments around the world are fighting misinformation that mushroom all over online platforms. One notable misinformation spreading around, especially across Europe, is 5G telecom masts cause Coronavirus.
The real-world effect of this misinformation has led to people burning down towers in the country. There is no truth in these viral contents. Social media platforms and instant messaging apps are scrambling to help the government devise creative ways to fight misinformation.
WhatsApp leads the way in a practical way
WhatsApp is an end-to-end encrypted instant messaging app. That means that the systems of WhatsApp have no way of reading or combing through conversations that happen between and within groups.
Given their tight situation, WhatsApp formulated a method to possibly stop misinformation in its destructive path. Earlier this month, WhatsApp implemented the limit of mass forwarding messages.
Instead of looking into the messages’ content, WhatsApp identified which messages have already been forwarded to five people or more. After which, the company tagged them as messages that may only be forwarded one-by-one per recipient, and disabled mass-forwarding.
We worked together with @WHO on a new 'Together at Home' sticker pack to help people stay connected throughout this moment and beyond. Send an air high five, celebrate our medical heroes, or show love to a personal hero in your life. Available now in your WhatsApp. pic.twitter.com/6xjKylYzRd
— WhatsApp Inc. (@WhatsApp) April 21, 2020
The rationale behind the policy was to provide additional friction for its users instead of just mindlessly forwarding unverified contents. According to a WhatsApp spokesperson, this innovative way of controlling the flow of information has limited mass forwarding by up to 70%.
Center for Countering Digital Hate chief executive Imran Ahmed has doubts regarding the positive news of WhatsApp. He questions the metrics used by the instant messaging app for measuring the alleged 70% decrease. Additionally, he insists that WhatsApp still has work to do because misinformation is still widespread within the platform.
The peak of misinformation over?
According to BBC’s special disinformation reporter, Marianna Spring, we could already be over the misinformation curve of the present ‘infodemic’. She adds that the control of this misinformation is not an easy task.
Even if WhatsApp has already curbed the misinformation trend, other social media platforms still have work to do. Nevertheless, the methods that Facebook and other similar platforms are commendable.
Still, Spring says that there could always be a second wave of misinformation especially when people let their guards down. Social media platforms should always be vigilant and look out for dubious information.
Image courtesy of @WhatsApp/ Twitter