It is not doubt that WhatsApp acts like the perfect catalyst for the spread of fake news. Other social networking sites have a role in the spread of fake news but WhatsApp is out of control. I can remember how the platfomr was used to spread fake news in 2017 (elections period). Most people would copy paste messages from questionable news sources or just forward them as received without confirming their authenticity.
WhatsApp even introduced a feature to label messages that are forwarded but this did not help fight the spread of fake news. With the pressure that was on Facebook during the recent US elections, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has to stay ahead of the game and come up with ways to address the spread of fake news before things get out of control.
One way WhatsApp plans to address this issue is by highlighting messages as “frequently forwarded” if they have been shared five or more times. This feature is being tested on the new beta version of WhatsApp for Android.
Earlier this year, WhatsApp announced that it was limiting the number of times users can forward a particular message as part of its strategy to fight the spread of misinformation. We are not sure how this has worked as the company has not shared any details on this.
With this new feature, you will only see the “frequently forwarded” tag on the messages that you send and you will not see it on messages you receive. I think this is a flawed strategy as even those who receive such messages should be aware of this as not all of them may end up forwarding the messages on WhatsApp, some may choose to share through other channels and this may lead to the spread of fake news even though not through WhatsApp. I get that this is not WhatsApp’s problem entirely but if the fake news originated or was amplified through its platform, then it will be to blame for its spread.
Before you forward the message, you will be able to see how may times it has been forwarded before. You can check the exact number by going to the ‘Message Info’ section before forwarding the message.
This feature is still being tested and should be rolling out to users very soon.
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