WhatsApp is a common medium for everyone to connect with friends and close ones. Along with the youngsters, middle-aged and senior citizens are also active users of it. Together with text messages, one can also video chat on WhatsApp.
But, together with these perks, WhatsApp comes with its negatives, too. With millions of users, it has given rise to the dangerous trend of forwarding fake messages. This trend can be devastating to any individual or organisation, and sometimes, it can also be fatal. One such infamous incident can be traced to June 2018 in Karbi Anglong, when two young Assamese men – Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das – were mistaken to be child lifters, and were lynched by the local mob. The mob mistook them as child lifters because there was a trending WhatsApp message in the area which stated that few child lifters had entered Karbi Anglong to kidnap children. Nilotpal, with his dreadlocks, looked different from the locals, and was mistaken to be a child lifter. Unfortunately, both the men lost their lives in this heinous incident. This is just one instance of how forwarded messages, without fact-checking, can be detrimental to people.
During the wake of COVID last year, many messages were circulating on WhatsApp which were fake. One such message was about how vibrating sounds from metal utensils can have a diminishing effect on the coronavirus. The message went viral after PM Narendra Modi urged everyone to clap for the frontline workers who were fighting against the virus. Everyone saw the outcome of it – total chaos and unruly crowds taking to the roads to follow the PM’s orders. Some went on to burst crackers, beat drums, taal-khol, etc.
During the trying times, various types of fake messages were forwarded. Circulation of a doctor’s fake prescription to fight the virus is another prime example. Most people believed it to be true and followed it. This is just an instance of how even educated people believe in forwarded messages without fact-checking them.
Even if WhatsApp updates its application regularly, fact-checking fake messages still remains a major issue. It is important to know a message’s authenticity. The trend of forwarding messages is like a grapevine communication where rumours spread fast but it does not have any legitimacy. Hence, it is important to be vigilant and responsible, for one message can destroy, or even kill someone.