There’s a lot of cockamamie coronavirus theories floating around right now. You may have even had an over-eager friend send you one or two, but in an effort to curb their proliferation, WhatsApp is tightening its limits on message forwarding.
WhatsApp is encrypted, so it can’t discern the content of messages in the platform, but it can see how often it’s been forwarded, so it knows you’re sowing the seeds of bullshit amongst your friends, and family (well, you could be) and it’s not happy. The service first rolled out a message forwarding cap in 2018, reducing the number of groups you could forward a message to from 250 to 20. Last year, in an effort to stop the spread of general misinformation, that was dropped to five. Since implementing the measures, WhatsApp saw a 25 per cent decrease in the number of messages being forwarded, because anything that poses even the slightest inconvenience these days can work as a very effective deterrent. We’re all just that lazy.
The new limit, announced this week, will only allow you to send on forwarded messages to one chat at a time. WhatsApp states that message forwarding isn’t inherently bad – after all, people the world over are stuck indoors with nothing better to do than forward funny memes and cat videos to each other. Instead, it phrases it as an issue of users possibly feeling overwhelmed by the “significant increase” its seen in the amount of forwarding going on, while mentioning that it can also “contribute to the spread of misinformation.” WhatsApp is a place for personal conversations, it says, not your nonsense. So if you’re still set on telling all of your contacts about the imminent 5G threat and how it caused coronavirus (there isn’t one, and it didn’t), you’ll have to be really dedicated to the cause to get that info out there, because it’ll take you bloody ages.