Tuesday February 19, 2019
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WhatsApp Announces 5-chat Message Forwarding Limit Globally

Based out of WhatsApp's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Lahiri can be contacted via email and general post

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"WhatsApp Business" was launched last week in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Britain and the US. Pixabay

Aiming to curb fake news, Facebook-owned platform WhatsApp on Monday announced it has globally lowered to five the forward limit for chats — a feature first launched in India last July.

“Starting today, WhatsApp will be implementing this change, globally i.e. all users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once,” the Facebook-owned platform said in a blog post.

Earlier, the company allowed users globally to forward messages for up to 20 chats (either individuals or groups).

“The new change will continue to help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts,” it added.

With the Indian government talking tough on WhatsApp’s failure to check the spread of fake and provocative content on its platorm, the instant messaging service last year rolled out its forward message limit to five chats for over 200 million users in the country.

In one of its notices, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) said WhatsApp has been requested to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labelling forwards and identifying fake news.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

The IT Ministry had also asked WhatsApp to ensure that the platform is not used for malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours.

In August, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the visiting WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels to comply with the Indian laws and take “suitable” steps to prevent misuse of the instant messaging platform in the country.

Daniels’ meeting with the IT Minister came against the backdrop of several incidents of mob lynching being linked to the circulation of fake messages and misinformation on the instant messaging platform.

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After being pulled up by the Supreme Court for not appointing a Grievance Officer and complying with other laws of India, WhatsApp in September appointed Komal Lahiri as the Grievance Officer for the country.

Based out of WhatsApp’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Lahiri can be contacted via email and general post. (IANS)

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The Solution By WhatsApp Is Not Enough To Stop The Spread of Fake News

WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread.

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WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread. Pixabay

Narrating the impact of fake news and propaganda disseminated through WhatsApp, election consultant Shivam Shankar Singh in his new book, says the solutions proposed by the platform to prevent rumour mongering seem inadequate.

In “How To Win An Indian Election”, Singh who managed BJP’s assembly poll campaigns in Manipur and Tripura says messages containing the words “if true” and “forwarded as received” do little to make the recipients question their authenticity.

“WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread,” he says.

“Such campaigns are unlikely to reach the audience that is the most vulnerable to WhatsApp forwards,” says Singh who entered the field of political consultancy with Prashant Kishor’s team at the Indian Political Action Committee.

He also says restricting the number of groups that a person can forward a message to is also unlikely to be effective because most end recipients don’t have too many accounts to forward the messages to.

“They usually just forward it to their family and friends, and can easily copy-paste the content. These users aren’t forwarding it out of malicious intent; they’re doing it because they believe it to be true and they want the information to reach a larger audience so that people can be informed,” he says.

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He also says restricting the number of groups that a person can forward a message to is also unlikely to be effective because most end recipients don’t have too many accounts to forward the messages to. Pixabay
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“WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread,” he says.  Pixabay

To establish his point, the author shares the example of right-wing WhatsApp groups that consist of people who truly believe that Muslims are bad for India and that they harbour anti-national sentiments.

“I’ve interacted with several such BJP supporters over the years. Ask them if they hate Muslims and many of them would candidly say ‘yes’, and ask them if they think Muslims aren’t as loyal to the country as Hindus, almost all would say ‘yes’,” he notes in the book published by Penguin Random House India.

Singh contends that such prejudices mean when people who already mistrust Muslims receive WhatsApp forwards about Muslims shouting pro-Pakistan slogans, murdering people, smuggling cattle, raping women and committing crime, they will probably believe them without any kind of verification.

“Fake news is usually intermixed with real news and sent to people over months to influence their opinion,” says Singh maintaining “politics at its core is the art of influencing public opinion”.

According to Singh’s assertions in the book, winning elections in India requires a political party or a politician to exercise some control over public opinion.

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He says such control is also required after winning an election, because “reforming a system requires a favourable public opinion, which can only be garnered through constant messaging and propaganda”.

He says social media, in the recent years, has emerged as one of the most effective tools in shaping public discourse and influencing what people talk about. (IANS)