WhatsApp fake news: How to spot one?

WhatsApp fake news menace came to light yet again when the popular free messaging platform suffered an outage last week pertaining to media downloads

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WhatsApp fake news is a problem that is seemingly hard to curb. The fake news issue came to the fore again last week, when WhatsApp suffered from a glitch that didn’t allow users to download audio, video and other media files on the platform. The temporary glitch was solved several hours later. Nevertheless, this lead to pranksters creating a fake message stating “Modi” was going to make “WhatsApp paid”.


Several gullible users also forwarded the message, which lead to unwarranted panic. “What’s app will b off From 11.30pm to 6:00 am daily Declared by central govt. Message from narendra modi (PM) we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp Messenger. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. DO NOT ignore my words or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 499.00 will be added to your monthly bill. We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing. We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the modi team,” ),” said the message, which obviously is fake.

“WhatsApp is going to cost you money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user i.e. you have at least 50 people you are chatting with. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it (2 ticks) and your WhatsApp logo will change color. send this to 8 people to activate the new whatsapp. Saturday morning whatsapp will become chargeable. If you have at least 10 contacts send them this message. In this way we will see that you are an avid user and your logo will become blue and will remain free. (As discussed in the paper today. Whatsapp will cost  0.01€ per message. Send this message to 10 people. When you do the light will turn blue otherwise whatsapp will activate billing. ITS TRUE …… U get blue TICKS,” it added. However, owing to the problems people were facing with media downloads added along with terms such as ‘as discussed in the paper today’ led to people believing in the message.

Although not much can be done about this particular instance as of now, users can take care not to forward such messages in the future. WhatsApp, in its blog, has provided various pointers on how to spot a fake message and prevent its proliferation.

How to spot WhatsApp fake news?

  1. Whenever users receive a message with a forwarded label, they must exercise caution before believing and forwarding the same to others. It would be a good idea to cross check on Google or other search engines if the information provided in the message is true.
  2. Grammatical errors are the biggest indicators of a fake message. For instance, in the above message, WhatsApp is spelt What’s App, and Modi, which is a proper noun, is in lower case.
  3. The WhatsApp blog says that stories that are hard to believe are usually untrue. Along the same lines, about the above message, it indeed is highly unlikely that WhatsApp will start charging all of sudden to nearly 200 million users in India.
  4. When users receive a seemingly fake message, they should refrain from forwarding the same and also inform the person who sent them the message that it is untrue.