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Facebook is rolling out software changes to make it harder for WhatsApp messages to be forwarded following complaints that spreading of rumours led to deaths in India.

Authorities had pressed the company for action after several people were killed in India, the biggest market for WhatsApp with more than 200 million users.

In a statement, WhatsApp said: "A few years back we added a feature to WhatsApp that lets you forward a message to multiple chats at once.

"Today, we're launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp."

Earlier this month, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and IT said many innocent people had been lynched as a result of these messages circulating on WhatsApp.

It said while the country's law enforcement authorities were taking steps to apprehend those responsible for such acts, "the abuse of platforms like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content is equally a matter of deep concern".

The WhatsApp statement said: "In India — where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world — we'll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once and we'll remove the quick forward button next to media messages.

"We believe that these changes — which we'll continue to evaluate — will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app."

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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