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Setting up new measures aimed at countering the spread of fake news using the platform, WhatsApp announced that it would be placing limits on the number of people to whom a message can be forwarded at a time.
In a blog post released on Thursday, the popular messaging application emphasised that it envisaged its primary purpose to be that of communicating with friends and family. It also announced a specific limit of five forwards for India, where it claims “people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world”.
This move comes close at the heels of the Indian government pressuring WhatsApp to take strong action against its platform being used to fuel fake news. A series of lynchings have taken place across the country in recent months due to WhatsApp forwards.
In a notice issued on Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) claimed that the platform’s role in allowing forwards that have caused mob violence amounts to abetment, and warned that the government could pursue “consequent legal action” against it.
The ministry pushed WhatsApp to come up with more effective solutions to tackle the menace of fake news. MEITY had already held WhatsApp partly liable for the lynchings caused by false forwards in an earlier warning.
Concerns surrounding the spread of information using social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook have skyrocketed in light of the upcoming 2019 General Election in India.
In June 2018, the Election Commission of India asked Facebook to consider blocking all political advertisements from the platform 48 hours before the General Election goes to polls, which also marks the end of the campaign period. In addition to this, Facebook representatives have reportedly agreed to make provisions for users to make complaints on posts that are believed to be violating election laws.
On Friday, Economic Times reported that a meeting between senior WhatsApp executives and members of the Election Commission sought to place a similar check on fake news that violates the electoral code of conduct, not only for the upcoming General Election but also for the state polls to be held in the latter half of 2018.
WhatsApp is reportedly going to be adopting the same fake news verification model for Indian elections that it used for elections in Mexico.