Whatsapp – fighting a different kind of virus by Amy Francis, the Henrietta Barnett School

Through this global crisis, we’ve learnt that social media and messaging apps are a key part of communication. At a time where we can’t be physically close, these platforms are helping us to stay in touch.

 

However, over the past few weeks, I’m sure some of us have received messages from friends or family containing questionable information about the Coronavirus. From memes obviously poking fun at the state of the world right now (please do not inject yourselves with disinfectant) to genuinely problematic advice, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 isn’t the only thing that’s viral right now. 

 

Misinformation about the Coronavirus is all over the internet. Youtube has had to ban all conspiracy videos about the pandemic being caused by 5G networks, and there are numerous baseless ‘cures’ for the virus; steam, copper and baking soda being among them. It’s not surprising that these rumours are being spread like wildfire – people are understandably very worried about their loved ones and want them to stay informed and safe.

 

But Whatsapp has introduced a new rule in its latest update to help curb the spread of misinformation: If a message has been forwarded enough to get a ‘highly-forwarded’ tag, users can only send it on to one person at a time, as opposed to five. 

 

And apparently it has worked; the company has seen a 70% decrease in the number of these misleading messages being sent. “WhatsApp is committed to doing our part in tackling viral messages,” a spokesman for the app said. “This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations.” The app is working with the WHO as well as governments around the world to make sure that its over two billion users only get genuine, fact-based information.

 

Amy Francis, the Henrietta Barnett School

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