Some Abuja residents on Thursday reacted to the decision by WhatsApp Inc. messenger service to limit the number of times a user can forward message to recipients in a bid to fight fake news.
In separate interviews some WhatsApp users said they believe the measure would reduce the spread of fake news, while others doubt the ability of the decision to stem misinformation.
Presently, WhatsApp users could forward a message to 20 individuals or groups. However, the new decision, when implemented, could allow users to send to only five recipients in a bid to stop misuse of the app.
The move followed global concern that the platform was being used to spread fake news, manipulate photos and simulate videos, with no way to monitor their origin.
A WhatsApp user, Mr Ariyo Adekunle, said that while the policy may not entirely stop the spread of fake news, it would go a long way in reducing the spread of fake news. Adekunle said “let us not forget that fake news originates from somewhere or someone and the person may choose to send it to one person, and from there, it spreads like a chain reaction.
WhatsApp misinformation grant “So, limiting forwards to five contacts will not stop fake news, but might reduce it as the case may be. “Fake news is like you blow feathers in the sky, be sure it will go a long way. Once it is out, it is out.” Mr Ufere Mba, a legal practitioner, urged WhatsApp to adopt more effective ways to curb fake news and maintain public order.
He said that desperate people who do most of the mischievous messages were not deterred by the consequences of their actions. “Limiting messages will not really stop the spread of fake news. WhatsApp is not the only social media platform where messages are broadcast. “The sender could decide to send the message via other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram or email,’’ Mba said.
Miss Mary Onubeji, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member and user of WhatsApp also said that the development may not curb fake news. She said “for instance, if limited to five chats, those five can also send to five others and so it spreads like that.”
Another WhatsApp user, Miss Zalmat Umar, who condemned the act of spreading fake news, however, insisted that it would be difficult to deal with the situation by just reducing the number of individuals or groups to forward such messages. She said “there is the need to do more apart from limiting WhatsApp forwards to five. “If five people send fake message to five people, the five will also forward same to five others and it goes on and on. “And when such message gets to Facebook and twitter, its like the whole community will get to know about it and the effect is better imagined.”
Some business women who also use WhatsApp, however, lamented over the effect of cutting the number of forward messages to five, saying it would limit their reach. Mr Luqman Shobowale, a pharmacist, expressed concern that it would have drastic effect on advertisements, especially on people who depended solely on the platform to reach out to customers. He said “WhatsApp has a special a precise step-by-step plan such that businesses can leverage on for business activities.”
Mrs Ajao Funke, a fabrics seller, also said that the decision would effect her business. She added that “many of my customers ask me to send them pictures of products through WhatsApp. “But if WhatsApp limits forwarded messages, it would shorten the reach of pictures to customers. “Most times I post pictures of fabrics I am selling on my status and some of my contacts will show interest by ordering for it.”
On the contrary, Mr Akpobome Ejiro, Manager, Simply Brandit, a brand development company, said that it would have little or no negative effect on businesses. According to him, businesses often have a defined target audience of which the `Business Whatsapp’ has a way of getting that done with the link created. “This is possible only if the business man knows his way around,’’ Ejiro added. On her part, Mrs Adeniji Kudirat said, for business, WhatsApp status is the in-thing, adding that people find it hard to download pictures, especially in Nigeria. “Reading forwarded messages is a turn off also, so I rather copy and paste. “This new development has been on since August 2018 and most of us that are WhatsApp business owners have found a way around it,” she said. (NAN)