WhatsApp users who do not want their numbers added to a group without their consent can now heave a sigh of relief. The good news is that a group admin will have to seek for your permission before your number can be added to any group.
This will help to curb the alarming rate at which fake news is being spread—India in particular, where agitation for the update began. Users can now control who has permission to add them to groups—and the Facebook-owned chat app believes will “help to limit abuse.” That aside, it will also help to keep users’ phone number private, which will indeed solve one of the biggest privacy issues plaguing the app.
WhatsApp per TechCrunch will also be adding an invite system for those who enable the additional protections. This will allow users to vet any incoming group invites before deciding to join.
The feature has to be enabled by the user, which in my view should have arrived by default. That said, you can enable it by going to Settings > tap Account > Privacy > Groups, then choose one of three options regarding who can add you to a group text: “Nobody,” “My Contacts” or “Everybody.” If you choose the “Nobody” option, your approval will be needed before anyone can add to any group even when an invitation arrives. “My Contacts” as the name suggests, means only those on your contact list can invite you, and further permission may not be needed.
Last January, WhatsApp started enforcing a new rule that limits the number of message forwarding to five. This is in line with the company’s plans to curb the menace called rumors. Rumors and misinformation are two of the biggest problems facing users of the messaging app in many countries—India in particular.
A company executive Victoria Grand, vice president policy and communications at WhatsApp, said at an event in the Indonesian capital per Reuters: “We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today.”
Before that update, WhatsApp user could forward a message to as much as 20 other users or groups. This new measure has been in place in India since July following widespread rumors on social media that led to threats and loss of lives of many people in that country.
There have been great concerns over how the Facebook-owned messaging app is being used to spread fake news and rumors. This situation generated a lot of tension among government and individuals; but there could be renewed hope with this new rule which could help make the app safe for all.
What makes fake news and rumors on WhatsApp so difficult to stop is the fact that there is no way to track perpetrators of such acts. The fact that the messaging app offers an end-to-end encryption makes it even more difficult to track down people who spread fake news.