‘It can only be shared with a maximum of 5 chats’, why does WhatsApp tell you when sharing messages

Someone sends you a message that you think is relevant, but when you start to forward it to all your contacts, you get an error that says ‘It can only be shared with a maximum of 5 chats’. Do not worry because you have not done anything wrong, but it’s about a new limit just imposed by the messaging app.

The idea behind this limit is to try to prevent the rapid spread of fake news through the application. This is a feature that has been tested for a month now, and has now started to be rolled out globally for all users. Today we are going to explain what exactly is limiting and what things continue as until now.

What exactly is limited

‘It can only be shared with a maximum of 5 chats’, why does WhatsApp tell you when sharing messages

The only thing WhatsApp has changed from now on is the maximum number of people you can share a message with at one time. This means that when you select a message that someone has sent you, either in a private conversation or in a group, and click on the share option, you will only be able to send it to five chats.

Chats include both individual users and groups. WhatsApp is not going to prevent that after sending it to 5 people you can select it again to resend it to as many new chats, since the limit does not affect the message itself you want to share, but to the maximum number of people you can send it to at once.

The change is quite substantial, since so far the limit of chats to which you could forward a message on WhatsApp was 20. Therefore, it has been reduced four times. This change it also does not affect the number of individual messages you can share, as long as each one does not want to send it to more than five chats at once.

Why this action was taken

In two words: ‘Fake News’. And also Spam, but especially fake news. Since misinformation on social media made headlines after the 2016 U.S. elections, more and more focus is being placed on how companies like Facebook are fighting or not fighting the disinformation campaigns circulating online.

The same has happened according to other analysts in countries such as Brazil with the victory of the controversial Jair Bolsonaro, and like him many other far-right groups that are becoming strong on WhatsApp. The misinformation and lies that are spread through these media even has come to cause lynchings in Mexico.

The enormous popularity of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp has made these platforms the main sources of information for many users. A recent study by the Pew Research Center showed how in the United States 20% of adults already inform themselves through these platforms when 16% do so through printed newspapers. Television continues to be the reference platform for information.

How can this measure help?

Imagine that a person is sent a message by WhatsApp in which they tell a lie but believe it, and that this person can start forwarding the message to groups of 20 people. If only one of those 20 people creates that message and shares it again, a snowball that is difficult to contain is already created.

Therefore, lowering this limit makes the initial impulse to share false information reaches fewer people. Yes, you can forward it to many people as well as before, but for this you will have to repeat the sharing process over and over again, an added difficulty that can discourage the dissemination of this information.