The Facebook owned company said it has seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding, which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.

Just after reports of a rise in user messages spreading false news about the covid-19 pandemic, WhatsApp on its  blog decides to impose a new forwarding limit to its app users as it seeks to combat the rise of misinformation campaigns flowing through the app.

"Last year we introduced users to the concept of messages that have been forwarded many times. These messages are labeled with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from a close contact. In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp. We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time."

We might think this is the first time Whatsapp is putting up such restriction but it’s not. As of early last year January 2019, the Facebook owned company also limited message forwarding to only five other users at a time. Also there was a time users were given the freedom to forward WhatsApp messages to 256 people if they wanted to, but more recently, the app has increasingly become a weapon of choice for misinformation campaigns which have been particularly damaging at times.
According to various reports, the App has been singled out as a key source for such misinformation campaigns over Covid-19.
The Facebook owned company said it has seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding, which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.
“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” it added. Messages can now only be forwarded to one group at a time.''

In a recent report in The Guardian, WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption, and massive reach, has made it an attractive option for misinformation initiatives. In the case of COVID-19, those campaigns have ranged from false "cures" to 5G signals amplifying the spread, to turning an indoor football pitch into a giant oven to cook lasagne for the needy (yes, seriously).

According to  The Guardian:
"More traditional social networks such as Facebook and search engines such as Google have made substantial efforts to crack down on coronavirus misinformation, but messages on WhatsApp are encrypted and untraced, which means claims can be viewed by tens of millions of people without being fact-checked by authorities or news organizations. It's relatively easy for a Facebook moderator to remove a public post that breaks the services' rules, but the encryption WhatsApp uses means that no one other than those involved in a conversation can see the material shared and relies on individuals self-policing their conversations."

Not All information forwarding is bad, some are helpful

As of last month, WhatsApp also launched a Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Development Programme and the Unicef.

This Coronavirus Information Hub includes general tips and resources for users with the aim of reducing the spread of fake news and linking directly to reliable health information. But so far, WhatsApp said that hundreds of millions of people have received messages based on information and advice as regards to the CoronaVirus pandemic.

In Whatsapp’s recent blog post, WhatsApp said it doesn’t believe that all message forwarding is bad on the platform judging from what they have seen so far.

“...We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful,” it said. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organise public moments of support for front-line health workers.”

Whatsapp might not be the only ones trying to contain the spread of false news. Facebook is also testing similar limits on message forwarding in Messenger, which is also seeing similar increases in misinformation campaigns. The UK government recently set up a taskforce to crack down on falsecoronavirus messages being spread on WhatsApp and other platforms. This also includes false hospital advice on how to kill the virus and scams pretending to be from the government offering tax refunds because of coronavirus disruption.
WhatsApp is by far the leading messaging app in many markets currently, and is particularly popular in developing regions. So with this, the ability user to access accurate information via WhatsApp is essential to limiting COVID-19's spread.