In an attempt to curtail spammy content, reports say that WhatsApp appears to be testing out notifications that alert users if they receive a message that has been forwarded numerous times, or if they are about to forward one of these messages themselves.
A lot of WhatsApp sites have provided screen caps of these messages, which do not directly say the message is spam or fake news, but notifies you that the content has frequently been shared. If you receive any of these messages, you’ll see “Forwarded Many Times” under the sender’s name, and if you’re about to send along one of these messages, you’ll see “A message you are forwarding has been forwarded many times,” written at the top of the forward screen. A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to giving a speech on the latest feature so it’s totally unclear where WhatsApp is currently testing this, or if it plans to implement it officially in the future.
WhatsApp chain messages can be innocent, but they can also contain any kind of scams. Some popular ones include a message that encourages users to pay in order to use the service, one that touts access a non-existent service called WhatsApp Gold, and another one that can trick you into opening a legitimate-looking document that can download malware and steal your personal information.
WhatsApp also has a problem with fake news having being forwarded frequently as well. These viral messages have had real-world effects, resulting in hysteria and mob attacks in India, and the use of doctored images and “social media warfare” to help get India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi into office.
Fighting spam messages and fake news across all social media platforms has from time to time been a topic of debate. Even though companies have, for the most part, been working to tackle the problem, it hasn’t always been successful. As recent as this week, a test Facebook conducted with News Feed was actually found to boost posts that promote fake news.