In today’s age of digital technology, WhatsApp has become a very popular medium for News. While Facebook takes the lead in opening the door of the entire world in a small screen of our smartphone, WhatsApp is slowly becoming more popular, and very soon will replace Facebook for news coverings as per a latest news report. Be it young or old, you will hardly come across people who are not using WhatsApp in today’s age. The number of users of WhatsApp is increasing day-by-day in India. While initially it was a mere messaging app for friends and near ones, it is slowly becoming a news hub. Free usage of the app has made it all the more popular. The big question is to what extent WhatsApp is reliable? How can we be sure that news on WhatsApp is always true? In fact, there are many instances of false news being propagated on WhatsApp.
Hoax News on WhatsApp Creating a Havoc in Jharkhand
Very recently, a WhatsApp message was doing the rounds in the state of Jharkhand where it asked villagers to look out for a group of men wearing black clothes, stalking across villages, kidnapping children. Considering the message to be true as it also had pictures of mutilated children, it was forwarded from one person to another to various WhatsApp groups and finally the message greatly affected the villagers of Jharkhand, who were mainly impoverished rural tribes living on agriculture and manual labor. The message ultimately led to panic, and suspicion of outsiders. The news spread so fast that very soon any new face in the village was looked upon with suspicion. In fact, there was the news of four Muslim business associates and three Gupta brothers being killed mercilessly by the mob only because they were suspected to be child kidnappers on the basis of the WhatsApp message. The police intervened but it was of no help. The mob attack further aggravated and one event led to another.
Other Hoax News on WhatsApp
- On June 4, 2014, a week after Narendra Modi became the prime minister of India, Mohsin Sadiq Sheikh, a 24-year-old IT professional was returning to his apartment in Pune. He was beaten to death by members of a radical Hindu outfit, due to the fact that derogatory pictures of two of their icons Shivaji and Bal Thackeray were forwarded through WhatsApp. Mohsin Sadiq Sheikh was killed with no fault of his but only because he belonged to the Muslim community.
- You will also come across hoax information like as a popular mango drink being laced with H.I.V. positive blood.
- How can we forget the very recent rumor of 2000 Rupee note having a chip?
- There was yet another popular WhatsApp message blaming the writer Arundhati Roy for her critical writings about Indian politics because she is a Christian and she is not using her full name: Suzanna Arundhati Roy.
WhatsApp’s Popularity and its Drawbacks
The mobile messaging application is free, simple to use and encrypted end-to-end. Almost 180 million internet users in urban India use WhatsApp. Even the rural people are not lagging behind. About 200 million of WhatsApp’s one billion users are from our country, making it the app’s biggest market. On New Year’s Eve, 14 billion messages were exchanged on WhatsApp in India. With video-calling feature, the use of WhatsApp has further increased. During the three years of Modi’s government, there has been a distinct rise in WhatsApp messages which are sent by diverse groups supporting Modi or opposing Modi, creating disharmony among people. Nationalist rage, along with sectarian overtones, dominates the world of India’s WhatsApp messages. Almost 80% of the misinformation comes from right-wing groups and spreads like wildfire. Such messages are also leading to increase in prejudice and violence against minorities and dissenters. WhatsApp has been turned more into a messenger of prejudice, adding more and more fuel to it. There has so far been no proper tabulation of the number of crimes in the country after rumors spread through WhatsApp. But, in most cases, the several major mob incidents reported across the country is due to WhatsApp messages. At the end of the day, it is the impoverished and powerless minorities who become the victims of virtual and real-life rage.