WhatsApp has been home to a thousand rumors and more. It’s popularity has ensured that it has become a part of our daily lives. Some rumors (like Facebook buying WhatsApp) gained popularity but didn’t really shake society in the ways that other rumors did. Here we have listed out some of the hoaxes that spread fear and panic among the masses.
1. Earthquake predicted
After the devastating Nepal earthquake, whose aftershocks were felt in many places in north India, WhatsApp was abuzz with predictions of a second earthquake. Texts like “North India will face next earthquake at 8:06 pm Govt of India is saying not to go in their houses. The next richer scale of earthquake will be 8.2 News from NASA” were doing the rounds and scaring the hell out of people. The external affairs ministry had to release an advisory rubbishing such predictions to calm things down.
2. HIV/AIDS in Frooti
I think this one started with Frooti, but by the end all colas, juices, etc. were reported to be contaminated. The original message: “Important msg from Delhi Police for all over India: for the next few weeks do not drink any product of Frooti, as a worker from the company has added his blood contaminated with HIV (AIDS). It was shown yesterday on NDTV… Pls forward this msg urgently to people you care… Take Care!! Share it as much as u can. Every life is precious. Do your bit, I did mine <3”
In December 2014, a WhatsApp message spread fear among Delhiites claiming that Delhi was an immediate target of terrorists. “Delhi is on red alert for couple of days They suspect terrorist activities in the city. intelligence beaure had declared prime targets a couple months back… Tell your families to avoid crowded places like malls and market for 4 days. According to ISIS’s tweet Indian intelligence have found that the terrorists will be targeting Delhi tomorrow… So please spread it all to be on the safer side.”
This hoax targeted WhatsApp itself: “Message from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp) we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill.”
Proving that people will believe anything, this hoax actually worked on a lot of people: “You must be knowing what u hv to do on 31/10/2014 If u dont know then read down.. The rate of net recharge is increasing day by day, that’s why Mr Narendra Modi has asked to switch off mobile date for that day, it’s only one day you have to keep ur internet off. Bcz of that all sim companies will suffer loss of approx. 300 to 400 crores and they will reduce net prices up 90%. Share this message. Janhit me jari.”
Ebola had scared the hell out of everywhere for a while last year. All sorts of rumors about the disease had been circulating. The one on WhatsApp claimed: “Countries like US and UK have already started banning chocolates for sometime. Surprisingly, Indian food ministry has hided this fact from the masses. Just to tell you, 17 samples of Cadbury are tested positive on Ebola – an incurable epidemic which can kill anybody in 24 hours.”
This hoax that went viral refused to die down for a long time. It started with a video on YouTube that showed a stick of Kurkure being burnt and melting like plastic. The explanation was simple – any item with carbohydrates and oil burns like ‘plastic’, but the video was shared profusely on WhatsApp. This led to some big losses for the company, which then had to release a statement on the matter.
This WhatsApp forward had some truly awful (and awfully Photoshopped) pics of mutant chickens that were supposedly used by KFC to create their food. The forward claimed that these chickens didn’t have beaks, feathers or claws to stand on. In addition to these unbelievable facts, the message also claimed that tubes were inserted into these chickens to extract blood and nutrients from them. This rumor spread so much that KFC had to repeatedly deny it.
“Dr Hardik Shah, CMO, Civil Hospital, Mumbai. This message is from a group of Doctors in India: (forwarded in public interest) 1) Do not drink APPY FIZZ. It contains Cancer causing agent.. 2) Don’t eat Mentos before or after drinking Coke or Pepsi because the Person will die immediately as the mixture becomes CYANIDE.. … 4) Avoid these Tablets, they are very dangerous: * D-cold * Vicks Action-500 * Actified * Coldarin * Cosome * Nice * Nimulid * Cetrizet-D They contain Phenyl Propanol-Amide PPA. Which causes Strokes & Are banned in USA…! Please, before deleting, HELP your frnds by passing it..! Let it reach d 121 crores Indians. It might help sum1. Fwd to as many as u can.”
“WhatsApp is going to cost us money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user i.e. you have at least 10 people you are chatting with. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it (2 ticks) and your WhatsApp logo should turn Red to indicate a frequent user.” WhatsApp responded with: “we would rather work on cool new features instead of debunking silly stories like these.”
In February of this year, Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Rakesh Maria, had to intervene and set the story straight when persistent rumors that were shared on WhatsApp scared the hell out of Mumbai parents. Along with photos of “criminal women” the messages claimed that a gang of around 1,500 women were kidnapping children with the aid of chloroform. Panic had gripped the city-dwellers, and Mumbai Police had to send bulk messages on WhatsApp to counter the rumor.
Did this create a panic among people? Well, about half of the people were panicked, the other half were rejoicing. Accompanied with a photo of a bloodied Honey Singh lying on a hospital gurney, the message claimed that Singh had died in a car accident in some foreign land. There were immediate reactions on all social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. But then Yo Yo cleared the air from his Twitter account. The photo was from his music video ‘Bring Me Back’ and Singh credited the hoax to his ‘haters’.
13. ICC World Cup Fixed
A viral message on WhatsApp in February of this year claimed that the ICC World Cup 2015 had been fixed. What gave this claim much initial credibility was that some of the early ‘predictions’ were right on the money, even improbable ones like Ireland defeating West Indies. But then the tide turned and the predictions fell by the wayside – much to the relief of cricket fans, who were starting to talk of not watching cricket anymore, while they were hooked to the World Cup.