It’s no secret that maintaining privacy online is important, this easily applies to apps such as WhatsApp which the majority of us use religiously day in and day out. The importance of the app has become even more invaluable especially now with billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to COVID-19. Individuals are heavily relying on the app more than ever to communicate.
An array of uses for the app as a means of communicating is being observed during this time with individuals now talking to doctors, teachers, and isolated loved ones during this crisis. This is the very reason why all messages and calls via the app are end-to-end encrypted by default to give individuals a secure place for their most personal conversations.
Last year the company 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 the app. The company has announced that they are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.
As a private messaging service, WhatsApp have taken several steps over the years to help keep conversations intimate. For example, the company previously set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.
Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not. The company also added that they “know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers. However, we’ve 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.”
In addition to this change, WhatsApp is working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information. Together these trusted authorities have sent hundreds of millions of messages directly to people requesting information and advice. If you are interested in learning more about these efforts, as well as how to submit potential myths, hoaxes and rumors to fact checking organizations, feel free to checkout their Coronavirus Information Hub.