Fight against fake news: whatsapp restricts forwarding

WhatsApp restricts a function in order to prevent the rapid spread of fake news. In future, a message can only be forwarded to five recipients. India pioneered the restriction after lynching.

WhatsApp restricts forwarding in the course of action against the spread of fake news. With the latest WhatsApp versions, a message can from now on only be sent to five recipients, said the Facebook subsidiary. The messenger service is concentrating on the private exchange of content with "close contacts". So far, a message could be forwarded to individual persons or groups up to 20 times.

The new version of WhatsApp should first be available for the Android system, followed by Apple devices with iOS.

India called for action

India pioneered the restriction. Last year, the government in Delhi asked WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook to take effective measures to prevent the uncontrolled spread of false information.

This was preceded by a wave of violence in many Indian cities because manipulated and fake videos had spread via WhatsApp groups. Innocent men and women were brutally beaten by angry crowds because they were mistaken for child kidnappers. Some people were even beaten to death. There were reportedly at least 20 lynchings over the course of a year.

The interior minister of the state of Maharashtra called for prudence on Indian television. He "appeals to the entire population not to believe everything that is spread on social networks". If there is a suspicion, one should inform the police. "But nobody is allowed to take the law into their own hands. And anyone who spreads false news will also be severely punished." The police drove through numerous cities and villages in loudspeaker vans to clarify fake news and its consequences.

In Kenya and Nigeria, too, fake news had fueled conflicts and contributed to an escalation. Fact checker Alphonce Shiundu from the organization "Africa Check" emphasized that "39 million people in Kenya have a cell phone. Seven million are on Facebook and twice as many on WhatsApp. That means there is a huge group of recipients in which everything spreads like one Wildfire. "

In Germany, too, targeted false reports are spread via WhatsApp, for example the police had to deny rumors that there had been an attack with a delivery truck in the Unterallgau.

WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and bought by Facebook in 2014. According to the company, the messenger service is used by 1.5 billion people worldwide who send 65 billion messages every day. The company calls on its website to stop the spread of rumors and fake news and gives tips on what users should pay attention to.

With information from Bernd Musch-Borowska, ARD-Studio Sudasien