NUcheckt: Message services do not delete conversations with fake news

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NUcheckt assesses messages on their reliability. This time, we look at the following claim: “As of October 21, 2020, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger will delete conversations and videos that make medically unfounded statements about the corona virus.” This statement is incorrect.

Where does the message come from?

NUcheckt received a tip via email about a Facebook message from Willem Engel, the leader of the Virus Truth action group. That message claims that WhatsApp Messenger will delete conversations and videos from October 21 if it makes medically unfounded claims about the coronavirus.

The message has now been shared 114 times and is also shared by other Dutch-language websites and Facebook pages.

It is not clear whether ‘WhatsApp Messenger’ now means WhatsApp – which is indeed officially called WhatsApp Messenger – or Facebook Messenger, but in both cases this statement is incorrect. In the report of the news agency Reuters, the source cited in the post, only states that YouTube will remove videos with false statements about possible corona vaccines.

For example, videos claiming that Bill Gates wants to inject microchips with this vaccine will be removed. About Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are mentioned in the message of Reuters no statements made. The messaging services have made no such announcement.

The incorrect message appeared on Facebook on October 19. It is not clear where the claims about WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger come from. The Dutch website LNN Media shares exactly the same message. The LNN Media site, also known as the Lockdown News Network, has been in existence since September. There is more often incorrect reporting, especially about the corona virus. Press has asked both Willem Engel and LNN Media about the origin of their claims, but has not yet received a response at the time of publication.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp do take other measures against the spread of fake news. Since September, a Messenger user can no longer send a message to an unlimited number of other users forward. This limit should slow down and limit the spread of potentially fake news. WhatsApp also has this feature.

WhatsApp also adds a double arrow to messages that are forwarded very often. It is then up to you to do something with it. This way you can check the message you have received yourself.

Messenger and WhatsApp do not look at the content of messages. So what you share and with whom is entirely up to you. So no conversations with unfounded claims about the corona virus will be deleted. Accounts cannot be deleted for that reason, as is claimed in Engel’s Facebook message.

In addition, only the sender and recipient can read a sent WhatsApp message, as it is secured with end-to-end encryption. This means that your messages cannot be viewed by others. They are sent as a long string of seemingly random characters that look like gibberish to potential interceptors. Only the sender and receiver have the necessary key that can decipher the string and make it readable.

Facebook Messenger also features end-to-end encryption. You have to enable it yourself in the settings of the app. This protection is therefore not automatically activated.



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