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WhatsApp Slaps "Forwarded" On Messages To Control Spread Of Misinformation

"This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow," the company said.

Last updated on July 10, 2018, at 2:25 p.m. ET

Posted on July 10, 2018, at 1:01 p.m. ET

Sam Panthaky / AFP / Getty Images

Indians protest in support of Shantadevi Nath, who was killed by a mob that falsely believed she was intent on abducting children, a rumor that began via WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is trying to address the spread of fake news on its platform. One solution: Starting Tuesday, it will start slapping a tiny "forwarded" label on all forwarded messages.

"This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else," said WhatsApp in a statement.

Forwarded messages on WhatsApp have led to major fake news crises in countries like India, WhatsApp's largest market, which has more than 200 million users. More than a dozen people have been lynched in India since May, fueled by misinformation forwarded on WhatsApp about child-kidnapping rings and organ harvesters. Furious mobs have fallen for these rumors and resorted to violence against people who were falsely accused of wrongdoing.

This is what WhatsApp's new "forwarded" label looks like.


Last week, the Indian government demanded that WhatsApp take more responsibility and add more features to its platform to curb misinformation in India.

On Tuesday, WhatsApp bought full-page advertisements in over 30 Indian newspapers in seven Indian languages urging people to "question anything that upsets you" among other tips to fight misinformation on the platform in the country. The company is exploring using advertising in other formats besides newsprint.

"Understand when a message is forwarded," the ad said. "Double check facts when you're not sure who wrote the original message."

"Question information that upsets you", says WhatsApp's full-page advertisements. Clearly the solution to declining newspaper ad revenues in India will come from how we tackle our digital fake news crisis.

Twitter: @AnujSrivas / Via Twitter: @AnujSrivas
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A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.