70% plunge in viral forwarded messages globally: WhatsApp to govt

Highly forwarded messages of have reduced 70 per cent after the company further limited the number of times people can send such messages, the firm has informed the Central government.

An official at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) confirmed they had been informed and said: “is saying that their limit of one per forward for viral messages has brought down the spread of such messages.”

Earlier this month, limited the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be sent further to only one chat at a time. This limit kicks in once a message has been previously forwarded five times or more.

“WhatsApp is committed to doing our part in tackling viral messages. Since putting into place the new limit, globally, there has been a 70 per cent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp. This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

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The government had raised concerns about a fresh spate of fake messages and forwards pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic. Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has time and again called upon social media firms to deal responsibly with misinformation.

Earlier this month, in a letter written to TikTok, Helo, and Facebook, MeitY had asked for daily reports to be submitted by the platforms detailing the measures they were taking to prevent the spread of misinformation.

The requirement for daily reports was supposed to be in place for a few days in light of the misinformation being spread related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

WhataApp also has a partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), as part of which users can double-check any information directly with IFCN’s partner organisations. In India, IFCN has at least 12 fact-checking partners, the highest in any other country. If users aren’t sure about the information they receive in WhatsApp, they can get in touch with any of these organisations through numbers provided on WhatsApp’s website. These fact-checking organisations include AFP, Alt News, Boom, Digit Eye, Fact Crescendo, India Today, Newschecker, Newsmobile and Vishvas News.

WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, has also acknowledged reports that it is working on a way to allow users to find out more information around messages that may be spreading misinformation and are being shared multiple times by users. This is however, still in the works.

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In a whitepaper released last year, WhatsApp said it uses artificial intelligence to identify suspicious behaviour from accounts. It removes over 2 million accounts per month globally for bulk or automated behaviour. As part of their efforts to help disseminate authentic information about and Covid-19, WhatsApp and other platforms are working with agencies and governments globally and in India.

In India, WhatsApp launched the MyGov Corona Helpdesk on the service in partnership with the the Indian government’s crowdsourced ideas platform.

Experts warn firms to guard against fake news

As the deadly pandemic spreading fast in India, fake news regarding the pandemic is spreading even faster, and experts warn this ‘infodemic’ can have huge economic costs for companies across the world in addition to health concerns for the public at large. While authorities have announced severe penal actions for those spreading fake news, widespread misinformation surrounding the disease has seen people drinking disinfectants and industrial alcohol while trying various rumoured treatments. PTI

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