Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp on Wednesday enforced its restrictions on forwarded messages in India, IANS reported. Currently, users can access WhatsApp via their browser but would have to sync with their phones to send messages on their desktop/laptop.
Whatsapp claims that the new changes, which it will continue to evaluate, will help keep the application the way it was created to be - a private messaging application.
It's easy to see how these techniques could be used to dupe even relatively tech-savvy individuals, with scams being an immediate concern and the potential spread of fake news a more slow-burning problem.
As much as 200 million users are using WhatsApp in India and a test has been launched last month after which it has been made official from Wednesday.
Separately, India's federal police have begun probing Cambridge Analytica's misuse of Facebook user data, which New Delhi suspects included information on Indian users. Also, the quick forward button next to media messages was disabled. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for US$19 billion. On 3 July, the IT ministry directed WhatsApp to take appropriate measures to curtail the spread of fake and provocative messages through its platform.
Following multiple incidents of mob lynching across the country, the government had slapped WhatsApp with two notices, with the second one warning that it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow if adequate checks are not put in place. As per the new update, you will be able to forward a message to only five people at a time. For example, when a user forwards a message in another chat, it has a "forwarded" tag on it.
A source at India's department of telecommunication said the letter was aimed at finding ways to block such apps during "emergency situations".
The social media giant also said it was not possible to directly access the messages to identify whether it was fake or not since it was end-to-end encrypted, but it would continue to improve features of the app and also educate users about the same.