WhatsApp will now alert people when messages have been forwarded, in an attempt to stop the deadly hoaxes that are being spread on the app.
The decision comes in the wake of a number of deadly attacks in India that appear to have been sparked by false rumours that were shared on WhatsApp.
The company hopes that including the messages should give people extra context and understand where messages have come from. That in turn could stop such horrific events happening again.
Until the latest update, messages that had been forwarded and those that were written by the person you are talking to looked exactly the same. That meant they looked trustworthy when in fact they might have been the result of a long chain of forwarded messages, and have first been sent by untrustworthy people.
From now on, any forwarded message will include a little note in the corner, in italics, saying that it was forwarded. It does not say who the message was forwarded from, and requires the latest version of WhatsApp to work.
But the site still cautions users against forwarding messages and asks people only to do so with care. “We encourage you to think before sharing messages that were forwarded,” WhatsApp wrote in a blog post about the update.
And it says that people should report any spam or problematic messages they receive to ensure their spread can be stopped.
As well as helping to combat fake reports, the feature should make it easier to follow conversations, the company claimed.
“This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow,” WhatsApp wrote. “It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else. To see this new forwarded label, you need to have the latest supported version of WhatsApp on your phone.”
The Indian government has been asking WhatsApp to act to stop the spread of the fake messages after the horrific killings. But the options available to the app are relatively limited because it makes sure that messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning that the company cannot see what people are sending or stop certain messages from being shared.