InfoSec News & Investigations

Is WhatsApp the new Coronavirus of Facebook?

The health officials and government authorities are trying their best to inform the public about the safety precautions amid the Coronavirus epidemic. But these health initiatives taken by the government and medical experts are constantly being threatened by one of the largest social media messaging platform. These messaging platforms are steadily spreading misinformation and fake remedies about the Coronavirus. Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has received harsh criticisms over its handling of the Coronavirus situation because of the spreading of fake news and misinformation using WhatsApp about the Coronavirus epidemic, which has caused more than 8000 death and affected more than 2,00,000 people across the globe.

WhatsApp users send messages that most of the time are inaccurate and lack any legitimacy, say the medical experts. The problem has now become so troublesome that global health organizations and world leaders have asked people to stop forwarding and sharing unverified claims about Coronavirus and its cures using WhatsApp. Irish president Leo Varadkar on twitter asked the people to avoid sharing unverified news in WhatsApp groups. According to him, the WhatsApp messages are frightening and ambiguous. People should only trust official information from health and government sectors, he says.

The misinformation shared on WhatsApp mostly comes from forwarded messages by a friend of a friend or supposedly a doctor. Not all messages are incorrect, for instance, washing your hand to stay safe. One of the most circulated false claims on WhatsApp is ‘drinking warm water every 15 minutes will prevent you from Coronavirus.’ Because WhatsApp messages have end-to-end encryption, health officials and the government can’t trace the source of misinformation. Even WhatsApp can’t trace the source of messages.

“It is clear … that a lot of false information continues to appear in the public sphere. In particular, we need to understand better the risks related to communication on end-to-end encryption services,” said Vice President Věra Jourová, Europen Commission, on Tuesday. He also surveys the alliance’s work to stop misinformation. “There are over a dozen [local fact checkers] so far, and we want more to be able to do their important work so rumors are identified and countered,” said Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp, on Wednesday in a tweet.

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