The new feature is meant to improve online privacy. Source: The Online Citizen

WhatsApp is introducing new features to its app that will give users more control on who can add them to group chats. The new controls allow you to prevent people who are not in your contact list from adding you to groups. There are some options too that prevent anyone at all from adding you. The final control lets you decide if you want everyone to add you. WhatsApp says that the new controls are part of a renewed effort at the company to limit the spread of misinformation on the platform.

The messaging app is also trying to address this privacy vulnerability that has existed for some time. Anyone could just add you to groups over the years and some people didn’t like it. In fact, BBC reported recently that, during the election campaigns in Brazil, campaign managers used apps to automatically add thousands of people to WhatsApp groups without their consent in an effort to rally political support. Such cases have also been reported in India.

The number of times a message can be forward now also has a limit. Source: Engadget

WhatsApp has also limited the number of times a message can be forwarded to five. All forwarded messages are labeled to try and draw the attention of readers to them. In India, the messaging app is rolling out a new fact-checking feature too. The tool allows people to verify the truthfulness of any message they have received. All these strategies are designed to stop the spread of fake news.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has billions of users. For a long time, very few privacy restrictions existed on the app but it seems things are now starting to change. However, it’s important to note that users who restrict others from adding them to groups can still get invite links directly through private messages.

This is the first time users can decide if they want to be added to groups or not. Source: Livemint

For example, if someone tries to add you to a group and your settings don’t allow it, they will be prompted to send you an invite link through private messages. The invite link will have information about the group and what is it about. You can then decide whether you want to join or not. The link will only be active for 72 hours. If after that you have not responded to the invite, it will disappear and you won’t see it again unless the invite is resent. This is the first time that WhatsApp is giving users the option to decide who can add them to group chats. Previously, the only way to do this was to block the group’s admin.

To use these new features, just go to the Account options within the messaging app. Once you are there, hit the Settings menu, select Privacy, and then Groups. You will be able to select who can add you to group chats from there. The app offers you three options. They include “Nobody”, “My Contact”, and “Everyone.” The new controls are launching today too. They will be rolling out to all global WhatsApp users in a few weeks. You should be able to access them in two weeks maximum.