With billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to COVID-19, people are relying on WhatsApp more than ever to communicate. People are talking to doctors, teachers, and isolated loved ones via WhatsApp during this crisis.

WhatsApp say that ‘that’s why all your messages and calls on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted by default to give you a secure place for your most personal conversations’.

Last year they 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. They say that ‘In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp’.

Given the dangers of the spreading of mis-information, the app will now be imposing a strict new limit on message forwarding, to slow the spread of ‘fake news’. If a user receives a frequently forwarded message (has been forwarded more than 5 times), they will only be able to send it on to a single chat at a time.

WhatsApp 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?

WhatsApp say “Certainly not. We 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”.