India lynchings: WhatsApp restricts message forwarding to combat mob killings

WhatsApp has implemented new restrictions on message forwarding in an attempt to combat the spate of mob killings in India.

The murders have been sparked by false rumors spread on the messaging app that the victims belonged to members of child-kidnapping gangs. The Times of India reports that more than 20 people have been killed by mobs over the past two months. The killings have mostly taken place in rural villages across India, according to Sky News.

The Indian government recently blamed the Facebook-owned service for failing to stop false information and called on it to take "immediate action" to prevent the social media platform from being misused to spread rumors and irresponsible statements leading to mob violence.

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WhatsApp, which is “horrified” by the lynchings, announced the changes in a blog post Thursday. “We're launching a test to limit forwarding that will apply to everyone using WhatsApp,” it explained. “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.

The Facebook-owned messaging app has not revealed what the global limit will be, but The Indian Express reports that it will be 20 chats. The current limit is 250 chats.

The killings have also been fueled by rumors that the victims were beef eaters and cow slaughterers. Cows are revered in Hinduism, which is India's majority religion.

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India's highest court on Tuesday asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with an increase in lynchings and mob violence.

The Supreme Court said that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Fox News has reached out to WhatsApp with a request for comment on this story.

Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers