Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp on Wednesday enforced its restrictions on forwarded messages in India, IANS reported. The company had made the announcement in July as part of its efforts to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation.
“The limit has started to appear this week for people in India who are on the current version of WhatsApp,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Other measures aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation will be rolled out in phases.
In July, the company said it would also test a policy of allowing a user to forward a media message only five times from one account. Media messages include audio notes, pictures and videos.
The company started implementing these measures after the Centre pulled it up last month for not doing enough to stop fake news being circulated on the platform. The government was forced to act after a spate of mob lynchings since March claimed several lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka. The mobs were seemingly influenced by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers.
The government warned WhatsApp that it would take legal action against it if it fails to place adequate checks to stop the spread of misinformation. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology also asked the company to go beyond the existing efforts of labelling forwarded messages and identifying fake news.
On July 11, WhatsApp said it had updated its service to label forwarded messages. The Centre, however, asked the messaging platform to go beyond identifying forwarded messages. The Central government asked WhatsApp to find the originators of provocative messages that led to several cases of mob violence across the country.
A week later, the Union Ministry of Communications asked telecom operators and internet service providers to explore ways of blocking mobile applications such as Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp during emergencies.