​Menace of WhatsApp Broadcast Pranks

​Menace of WhatsApp Broadcast Pranks 

Written by Demola Adefajo 

There is no doubt about it, the WhatsApp and other social media have revolutionised our knowledge base.  WhatsApp has enabled us keep in regular contact with friends, co-workers and family at minimal cost.  However, it has come with its own negative baggage.  

As a regular or occasional user of WhatsApp and other social media you must have come across some messages which you believe to be true and you decide to send to your friends and groups only to discover that they are untrue!  It is also possible that you have identified some of your contacts who are always sharing messages which almost always prove to be hoaxes.  In fact, I have a contact whose name I  have changed to Alarmist because of her penchant for sending alarming messages which almost always prove to be untrue.  

I have identified different categories of these messages based on their motives.  They are those I call Marketers.  They are designed to extol the virtue of some particular products which they claim can do a lot of magic. One of such is a broadcast recently recommending use of hand sanitisers to prevent sexually transmitted infections!

The second category are those I tag demarketers.  The broad objective is to malign some products.  This category of broadcasts comes out with outlandish claims meant to malign such products.  Victims of this type of broadcasts include Coca Cola, Paracetamol, Crunchy Biscuits, Dew Water, fruits etc.  They come out with claims that a large number of have died in a particular country after consuming the product!  A cursory search on Google would expose the deceit.  They however bank on the fact that most people are more likely to share a message than to check the veracity. They would even dare you to check on the net.

The third group are the pseudo religious broadcasts.  You are asked to share a particular message in order to receive some favour. The designers even go further to give examples of people who sent the message and secure contracts or suddenly become millionaires. On the other hand, they give examples of some imaginary characters who met with misfortune because they refused to share! Did Dangote also share this type of message? Maybe that is the secret of  Bill Gates’ wealth!

Among the pseudo-religious broadcasts are those designed to create discord among adherents of various religious groups.  One of such was sent to me with the instruction to send to all my contacts! It claimed Christians are being killed in one part of India. A check on Google showed that there was no such killing. More importantly, the place mentioned does not even exist!  Another is a message alerting Muslims to the plan by Denmark to burn the Qur’an “next Saturday”.  The message has been circulating for years.  Yet it is always “next Saturday”.  You are asked to send to all your Muslim contacts so that they can boycott products made in Denmark!  Hmmm! When will it be “next Saturday”? Is Denmark a person?  

There are also the downrightly mischievous ones designed to poke fun at us!  Maybe you still remember that message instructing us to bath with salt water and drink a lot of salt to prevent Ebola.  It was originated by some girls who were bored and wanted to catch some fun.  They then decided to design that message.  So many people believed and did as instructed. At the end of the day many high blood pressure patients were dispatched to the great beyond after the salt they took aggravated their health condition! 

In fact there are websites dedicated to creating this type of message! 

Whichever the category of WhatsApp hoax broadcast they all bank on our fear, greed, emotion and laziness.

Here are some tips to avoid falling victim.

Beware of long health warnings.  They often pack a lot of lies in the middle after starting with facts,

Hesitate before sharing messages.  Maybe if you read a second time you would discover some lies in the message.  This is why they often end with instruction to share now.  

Always check on Google.  Many of these hoax messages have been circulating for years and they have been documented as hoax. Just type the key words into your browser.  E.g. Paracetamol Machupo virus hoax.

It is not true if it stands too good to be true!  Ignore messages asking you to inform physically challenged persons that there is a scheme paying them N100,000 per month!

Ask questions. Don’t just share.  Ask “Why is this person asking me to share with all my contacts?”  What do they stand to gain?

We should endeavour to know a little about everything.  For instance, if we know that HIV cannot be transmitted through food, we would ignore messages claiming some people got infected with HIV when they eat banana or water melon.

Resist the urge to be the first to break a particular piece of news even when we aren’t sure it is true.

Be more scientific minded and less superstitious.  A more scientifically minded person wouldn’t help send messages claiming some people died after receiving calls from a particular phone number

Some widely circulated WhatsApp hoax messages

Share this message with 20 contacts and your WhatsApp logo would turn blue!  Even if you send to 1 million contacts, it would remain green.

Share this picture and some organisation would donate to treatment of a sick child.  Bloody waste of time.  Nobody is monitoring how many times you send a particular message!

40 persons died after eating a particular biscuit in South Africa.  Ok o! I wonder how 40 persons would die after consuming a product in South Africa and yet no newspaper reported it and the company has not been blacklisted!

Share this video until it reaches Buhari! Thanks so much.  I don’t have Buhari on my contact list. Besides, the person in the video does not bear any resemblance to the person you claim to be reporting.  
To be continued!
Demola Adefajo blogs at demoadefa.wordpress.com

Twitter: @demoadefa

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