The messaging service WhatsApp has announced that it would introduce a new limit on forwarded messages, allowing users to forward messages to just five individuals or groups.

This follows an earlier announcement last July that messages could be forwarded a maximum of 20 times, with forwarded messages also being labelled as such.

Why are there limits on the amount of times you can forward a message on WhatsApp?

WhatsApp’s vice president for policy and communications, Victoria Grand, announced plans to further limit the amount of times specific messages may be forwarded at an event in Jakarta on 21 January, stating that the decision was made to curb the spread of “misinformation and rumours”.

Messages may now be forwarded to just five other individuals or groups, down from the maximum of 20 announced last year.

While social media and encrypted messaging platforms have been credited as being invaluable tools in areas of the world that experience social unrest, these same apps and sites have also had a hand in the rapid spread of fake news and false rumours, even resulting in the election of presidents famous for divisive rhetoric.

WhatsApp’s decision to set a limit of 20 on forwarded messages followed a series of violent mob lynchings in India after false messages about child abductions did the rounds in the country.

The latest forwarding limit of five messages came into effect globally from the time of the announcement on 21 January with updates for the app.

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption means that users can rest assured that their messages are completely private, but it also leads to problems with fact checking, due to encrypted messages being sent without any kind of oversight. End-to-end encryption has also led to a significant problem with child pornography on the platform.

Hoax messages, false rumours and fake news are common across social media and messaging apps, and this increasingly has real-world consequences. Check out these tips to help you spot a hoax on social media, and always think before you forward anything.

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