Warning! Fake WhatsApp Forwards Leading to Murders & Mob Lynchings
Cameraperson: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Click here for the complete list of mob lynchings since 2015
The police in these states have tried to alert citizens to the fact that many of these WhatsApp forwards are fake, but it is important to understand how dangerous and deadly a simple fake message can be.
With 200 million Indians using WhatsApp, this popular messaging app has become a one-stop-shop for easy information, mindless shares and a black hole for unchecked, unverified news.
Why Is WhatsApp More Dangerous Than Facebook or Twitter?
1. Confirmation Bias
During the communal riots in West Bengal in 2017, a picture of a man molesting a woman was circulated on WhatsApp. The problem? The picture was actually a screenshot from a Bhojpuri movie.
But how do you find the truth on WhatsApp? Well, most people don't want to. If it suits their ideology, they WANT to believe it. It’s called CONFIRMATION BIAS and this is one of the biggest reasons why fake news becomes so popular.
2. Credibility of Friends and Family on WhatsApp Groups
Let’s admit it, it is difficult to doubt a message forwarded on a WhatsApp group by people you’re close to. Like when that uncle you always trusted sends you a message, even if one part of your brain says, “Could this be false?”, you rubbish it.
It is important to remember that ANYONE can fall for fake news. No matter how reliable or trustworthy they otherwise are.
3. End-to-End Encryption on WhatsApp
WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption, which means only the sender and the receiver can read the messages. Therefore, it is beyond the control of the authorities to crack down on the misinformation.
For example, it’s next to impossible to track down where a fake news forward originated from. So encryption, which is a huge boost for user privacy, can also aid the spread of fake news!
4. Screenshots from Parody Accounts
Another way to trick you is by sharing a screenshot from a parody account on Facebook or Twitter. When someone takes a screenshot of a parody page and forwards it on WhatsApp, we can often miss the small differences that give the game away, and end up mistaking a parody message for the real thing!
For example, a parody page of Republic TV had shared a fake quote of former JNU student union leader Shehla Rashid, which was then forwarded on WhatsApp. After the truth came out and they faced backlash, the page was taken down, but as long as it was there, it created a lot of fake news mischief.
The app, owing to its simple and intimate interface, has become an easy way to spread hate and rumours, on just about any subject under the sun – rapes, riots, religion, rainfall, rupee, and a lot more.
DOUBT. VERIFY. SPREAD THE TRUTH.
So, how do you become more discerning?
DO NOT BELIEVE something to be true just because it gels with your political opinion.
DO A SIMPLE Google search to verify the news.
DO NOT SHARE “news” without being absolutely sure that it is authentic.
For all you know, you might actually be saving someone’s life.
Fight the menace. And DO NOT BE A WEBQOOF!
(Not convinced of a story you came across on social media and want it verified? Send us the details at WebQoof@TheQuint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)
(Hi there! We will be continuing our news service on WhatsApp. Meanwhile, stay tuned to our Telegram channel here.)