A message that went viral on the platform said, “Don’t accept WhatsApp’s new policy.” Once done, your WhatsApp account will be linked to your Facebook account and Zuckerberg will be able to see all your chats. “
“In a few months, WhatsApp will launch a new version that will show you ads based on your chats,” said another. “Don’t accept the new policy!”
In the days that followed, thousands of similar messages went viral on WhatsApp, an instant messaging app owned by Facebook. Millions of people gathered by celebrities like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and whistle blower Edward Snowden Ran away To download WhatsApp options like Signal and Telegram.
There was only one problem: from the 4,000 word policy, it was clear that the new changes only apply when people use WhatsApp to chat with business, not personal conversations with friends and family.
No, the new terms will not allow Facebook to read your WhatsApp chats, the company explained to whoever asked. Top executive posted Long thread On Twitter and gave Interview India’s largest publication, the company’s largest market. WhatsApp spent millions buying ads in the big newspapers and on the front page Published graphics Spreading rumors on his website with a huge “Share on WhatsApp” button in hopes of injecting some truth into the flow of misinformation coming through its platform. The company encouraged Facebook employees to share these infographics, according to a post in the internal message board workplace.
“We’re working to provide accurate information on how WhatsApp protects people’s private conversations, so there’s been a lot of misinformation and confusion.” “We’re using our status feature to communicate directly with people on WhatsApp, as well as social media in dozens of languages and We’re posting the right information on our website. Of course, we also provide these resources to those who work in our companies so they can answer questions directly to friends and family if they want. “
None of this worked.
There are rumors and deceptions that have been spreading through WhatsApp for years Driven a misinformation crisis The most populous countries in the world like Brazil and India where the app is primarily where most people talk to each other. Now, the crisis has reached the agency itself.
“Reliance on platforms [at a] Below the rock, “Claire Wardell, co-founder and director of First Draft, a nonprofit that studies misinformation, told BuzzFeed News.” So when privacy policies are changed, people are rightly concerned about what that means. “
People are worried that WhatsApp will link their behavior to the app with data from their Facebook accounts, Wardle said.
“Facebook and WhatsApp have a huge lack of trust,” said Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt News, a fact-checking platform in India. “Once you have it, any misinformation you are responsible for is easily swallowed up.”
What both Sinha and Wardel do not help is the lack of understanding among regular people about how technology and privacy work. “Confusion spreads misinformation there,” Wardell said, “so people saw policy changes, came to conclusions, and, surprisingly, many believed the rumor.”
Over the years, these patterns of misinformation on WhatsApp often lead to loss. In 2013, a video went viral in Muzaffarnagar, northern India, sparking riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities, killing dozens of people and allegedly releasing two young men. A Police found the investigation The video is more than two years old and was not even shot in India. Fake news in Brazil The platform is flooded And the far-right candidate who won the country’s 2018 presidential election was used to support Jay Bolsonaro.
But the agency did not take its misinformation issue seriously until 2018, when rumors about child abductors spread through the platform. Violent lynching series In a statement issued at the time, the Indian Ministry of Information Be careful WhatsApp took legal action and said the company would be considered “habitual” if WhatsApp was sent to crisis mode if the company’s problems were not resolved. The company, based in California, flew top officials from its headquarters to meet with Menlo Park, government officials and journalists, and carried out high-profile awareness campaigns to provide false information.
This is the first time the app has created new features to prevent direct misinformation Labeling forward messages And Limited A portion of the number of people or groups can be forwarded to reduce viral content. In August last year, it The beginning Google allows people in a handful of countries to upload the text of a message to verify that a message is a forgery. The feature is not yet available to WhatsApp users in India.
Since then the company Done A tool that lets users search for images found in the app with a single tap in 2019, a step that helps people check-in more easily. About two years later, however, there is no sign of the feature, although a text version is available in more than a dozen countries that do not yet include India.
“We’re still working on the search tool feature,” a WhatsApp spokesman told BuzzFeed News.
This week, the company delivered a status message, at the top of the status section of a Facebook story equivalent to WhatsApp. Multiple messages from the rumored agency were published by tapping on the status.
“WhatsApp doesn’t share your contacts with Facebook,” the first said. Two more status updates make it clear that WhatsApp can’t see people’s location and can’t read or listen to encrypted private conversations. “We are committed to your privacy,” the last message said.
Employees had multiple questions before the weekly Q&A with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, BuzzFeed News saw, according to internal communications. Some wanted to know if the growing move in signals and telegrams was affecting the quality of WhatsApp usage and growth. Others wanted the CEO to provide an address on whether he used any metadata from Facebook to WhatsApp for advertising.
Zuckerberg responded that he did not think the organization handled the changes well.
“The short answer is no, I don’t think we should have done it the way we did,” he said. “And I think the team is already engaged – and not just on WhatsApp TOS, it has a lot of lessons to do to make sure we can do better. But you know, we have other TOS updates for different apps and services. And we need to make sure we do better for these two. So in this way, we reduce the amount of misinformation we create – and the amount of it – and the amount of confusion that is created. “
Contributed by Ryan Mack Reporting.