A viral message on social media claims to reveal details of Signal application. These details are about its founder, language in which the app was coded, among others. However, we found that the viral message is baseless and the information disseminated in it is false.
The viral message appeals to all Indians to download Signal app, which allegedly will be a ‘huge boost to Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
The message claims that the app has been created by a poor villager’s son from Uttar Pradesh who is an IIT graduate.
It further says that organisations like NASA and UNESCO have awarded the app the ‘Best New App of 2021’ because it is allegedly the first app to use the code in Sanskrit.
The message also claims that WhatsApp is going to shut down in six months. Several Facebook users have shared the message with the same claim.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We found that all the claims made in the viral message are false. Let’s look at them one by one:
1. UP VILLAGER’S SON CREATED SIGNAL APP
We went to the official website of Signal and came across the board members of the organisation namely Brian Acton, Moxie Marlinspike and Meredith Whittaker.
The website mentions that Brian Acton had started the Signal Foundation alongside Moxie Marlinspike. We didn’t find any information that would link the aforementioned people to Uttar Pradesh.
2. APP AWARDED BY NASA, UNESCO
The viral message claims that the Signal app has been awarded, “Best New App of 2021” by NASA and UNESCO. However, we couldn’t find any such award being released by the two organisations.
Regarding UNESCO, we came across a list of prizes that the organisation releases, and the one mentioned in the viral message does not feature on the list. Apart from this list, a keyword search on Google showed us other UNESCO awards, however no such award features anywhere.
3. CODE USED FROM SANSKRIT TO CREATE THE APP
As one can see there is no mention of Sanskrit here. Signal is an open-source software and its code is available in the public domain. We then went onto the Github link of the Signal app in which the top languages used to code are: Java, Objective-C, Rust, C and Swift.
The repository of programming languages used to code the app do not mention Sanskrit anywhere.
We also came across a list of translations for the Signal Android app and found that the original code has not been translated into Sanskrit. Indian languages for which the code has been translated into are: Bengali, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, Punjabi, and Gujarati.
It is pertinent to note that when a code gets translated, it’s just for understanding the original code. The original code still remains in English.
Speaking to The Quint's WebQoof team, Security Researcher and Technologist Karan Saini said:
“The translation here is actually localisation and is only for display items (‘strings’), which show up in different places in the UI (notification messages, settings page, etc). Further, translations are usually done by volunteers. Myself and a few others had translated Signal’s Android UI to Hindi, Malayalam, Gujarati and a few other languages at the start of this year.”
Speaking specifically about the Sanskrit language, he said, "Localisation efforts for Signal exist for more than 100 languages. Sanskrit is not one of them. 'sa_IN' is the ISO code for the Sanskrit-India locale and does not show up anywhere, meaning that it is not used significantly in any software projects available online, except in the Debian OS settings."
He further said that it might be possible that the Hindi translation (hi_IN) includes Sanskrit words, but ‘localisation for a separate Sanskrit language is almost non-existent given that there is no demand/volunteer effort’.
4. WHATSAPP WILL SHUT DOWN IN SIX MONTHS
We reached out to WhatsApp for response on the claim being made and the company said: “This is false. We remain committed to providing a secure and reliable way for people to talk to their friends, family and business on WhatsApp."
Evidently, a viral message made a series of false claims about Signal and WhatsApp.
(Editor’s note: The identity of a user whose Facebook post has been included in the story has been hidden after the user deleted the post and requested us to conceal the identity.)