A VIRAL message circulating on WhatsApp is falsely claiming that government agents can spy on your chats, according to reports.
The rapidly spreading hoax alleges that a subtle change to the ticks that appear next to your WhatsApp texts may indicate you’re being watched.
The message has been widely debunked and previously went viral on the Facebook-owned messaging app as recently as last year.
It has gained traction once again in India in recent weeks amid a draconian crackdown by the government on social media platforms.
The hoax makes false claims about changes to WhatsApp’s read receipts – the little ticks that appear next to a message after a recipient has seen it.
One grey tick means your message has been sent, two grey ticks means it’s reached their device and a pair of blue ticks means it’s been read.
According to the viral text, WhatsApp has added new ticks to indicate that local police have read your chats and are taking “legal action”.
Normally, WhatsApp’s messages are encrypted, meaning they can only be read by the sender and receiver.
However, the heavily forwarded text says that local authorities have been granted access to people’s texts under a set of new communications rules.
“Two blue ticks, and one red tick means the government can take action against you,” the text alleges, according to the IndianExpress.
“Three red ticks will mean that the government has started court proceedings against you.”
Needless to say, the message is nonsense – red ticks have not begun to appear on people’s read receipts.
The viral fib was exposed as such on Thursday by fact-checkers at India’s Press Information Bureau.
WhatsApp – a quick history
Here’s what you need to know…
- WhatsApp was created in 2009 by computer programmers Brian Acton and Jan Koum – former employees of Yahoo
- It’s one of the most popular messaging services in the world
- Koum came up with the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up”
- After a number of tweaks the app was released with a messaging component in June 2009, with 250,000 active users
- It was originally free but switched to a paid service to avoid growing too fast. Then in 2016, it became free again for all users
- Facebook bought WhatsApp Inc in February 2014 for $19.3billion (£14.64bn)
- The app is particularly popular because all messages are encrypted during transit, shutting out snoopers
- As of 2020, WhatsApp has over 2billion users globally
They tweeted: “In a viral message, it is being claimed that the Indian government will now monitor social media and phone calls under the ‘new communication rules’.
“This claim is fake. No such rule has been implemented by the Government of India. Do not forward any such fake / unclear information.”
A similar message making claims about three red ticks went viral last year and was also quickly debunked.
Fears around social media are at an all-time high in India as the country battles a deadly wave of Covid-19 that has claimed the lives of thousands.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is tightening his grip on tech giants, with the government removing dozens of social media posts relating to the outbreak.
However, concerns have been raised that the crackdown infringes on citizens’ freedom of speech.
Legitimate criticism about Modi’s handling of the pandemic has reportdyl been wiped from Twitter, Facebook and other apps.
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Facebook is facing backlash in the US over plans to create a version of Instagram for children under 13.
And, China is claiming to be a world leader in 6G technology, according to reports.
Do you know any good WhatsApp tips and tricks? If so, let us know in the comments!
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