WhatsApp enforces restrictions on forwarded messages in India, only 5 forwards now possible

Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp on Wednesday enforced its restrictions on forwarded messages in India, IANS reported.

The company had made the announcement in July as part of its efforts to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation.

“The limit has started to appear this week for people in India who are on the current version of WhatsApp,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Other measures aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation will be rolled out in phases.

In July, the company said it would also test a policy of allowing a user to forward a media message only five times from one account. Media messages include audio notes, pictures and videos.

The company started implementing these measures after the Centre pulled it up last month for not doing enough to stop fake news being circulated on the platform.

The government was forced to act after a spate of mob lynchings since March claimed several lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka.

The mobs were seemingly influenced by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers.

The victims have ranged from innocent people asking for directions, transgender people, the poor, and the mentally disturbed.

The government warned WhatsApp that it would take legal action against it if it fails to place adequate checks to stop the spread of misinformation.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology also asked the company to go beyond the existing efforts of labelling forwarded messages and identifying fake news.

On July 11, WhatsApp said it had updated its service to label forwarded messages. The Centre, however, asked the messaging platform to go beyond identifying forwarded messages.

The Central government asked WhatsApp to find the originators of provocative messages that led to several cases of mob violence across the country.

A week later, the Union Ministry of Communications asked telecom operators and internet service providers to explore ways of blocking mobile applications such as Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp during emergencies.

Source: Scroll.in, IANS

Facebook-owned Whatsapp testing feature to detect fake news, suspicious links and spam

Amid the pressure to curb fake news spread over its popular chatting platform, Facebook-owned Whatsapp is in a process of testing a new feature. The company is moving with the idea of adding a ‘Suspicious Link Detection’ feature. The feature aims to help its users to know whether the website links which they are receiving are from legitimate sources or not.

This feature is seen as a major tool to know and understand fake news and stop its spread. The feature is a part of the company’s efforts to make the app safer and to stop it becoming a tool of anti-social elements.

According to WABetaInfo, Whatsapp has submitted the new update through the Google Play Beta Program. However, the feature is not available for use as of now, as it is in the testing stage.

In the promising feature, the Whatsapp will do a background check of every link being shared on the platform in order to verify whether the information is true. If not, a ‘Suspicious Link’ flag will pop up against the link. If a user decides to ignore the flag and still proceeds to open the link, Whatsapp will again throw up an alert asking the user if they want to proceed or go back. If the user wants to proceed with opening the link, he can tap on the ‘Open Link’ option. And if he doesn’t want to, then he can tap on ‘Go Back’.

According to WABetaInfo post, every time WhatsApp analyses a link, it will do it locally without sending any data packets to its servers. However, there is no word from the company on when this feature being made official.

Meanwhile, the company has also been working on a feature that labels forwarded messages.

Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has taken serious note of these irresponsible messages and their circulation in such platforms. The government has asked WhatsApp to take immediate action to end the menace of spreading messages that impact the country’s law and order situation and ensure that the platform is not used for such malafide activities.

“Instances of the lynching of innocent people have been noticed recently because of a large number of irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation are being circulated on WhatsApp. The unfortunate killing in many states such as Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and west Bengals are deeply painful and regrettable,” the statement from the IT Ministry had said.

Source: Financial Express