Social platforms are an ideal medium to spread hoaxes on internet by often disguising as trusted and reputed sources or websites in order to deceive the average online content consumer. Some hoaxes are spread internationally and keep resurfacing over and over again. In the past few weeks we have observed a growing number of false claims spreading on social media platforms especially via WhatsApp.
A message is being circulated among WhatsApp users since lately with following narrative message.
“Passing this on. I got it from a GE friend.
If you know anyone using WhatsApp you might pass on this. An IT colleague has advised that a video comes out tomorrow from WhatsApp called martinelli do not open it, it hacks your phone and nothing will fix it. Spread the word.
If you receive a message to update the Whatsapp to Whatsapp Gold, do not click!!!!!
Please inform all contacts from your list not to open a video called the “Dance of the Pope”. It is a virus that formats your mobile. Beware it is very dangerous. They announced it today on BBC radio. Fwd this msg to as many as you can!”
Translated version of this message started circulating among WhatsApp & Facebook users in Sri Lanka as well. Below are some of the screenshots of the viral message.
|FB Link||Archived Link|
Even though many users have been skeptical about such messages and number of re-shares were comparatively low, a worrying number of FB users had shared this message as shown below.
Since this message was spreading rapidly, we decided to do a fact check.
We carried out a Google search about this message and came across many reports about this hoax. We studied most of the reports and noticed that similar type of a message appeared back in 2017 as well. There is no report of WhatsApp sending out videos let alone making announcement of such a video release.
This warning about “MARTINELLI” is a hoax, one that appears to have originated in a Spanish-language initially for which Spain Policía Nacional has issued a tweet debunking it back at the end of July 2017
The text, which instructs people to pass it on to their friends, suggests that users would receive a video that will hack their phones. But in reality there is no video called “Martinelli” and WhatsApp users are not in any danger from it. This has reappeared recently in many parts of the world and here is a fact check done by The Independent.
The viral message also warns about WhatsApp Gold version with instructions not to click on any links for updates. WhatsApp has not launched a gold version and it is unlikely there will ever be one as well. However links to malicious website with the message of upgrading to WhatsApp gold version have been going around since 2016 and we urge our readers to refrain from clicking on such suspicious link. This is a fact check done by Snopes back in 2016 in this regard.
When we did further investigation on similar claims we noticed that WhatsApp itself had issued a warning about a similar app called “WhatsApp Plus” as below stating that it is no way an authorized app by WhatsApp.
The viral message mentions about a video called “Dance of the Pope”, similar to the above “Martinelli” video we noticed that this again was an arbitrary claim and no reference to such a video has ever been made. Furthermore, BBC has never mentioned about such a claim in any of their online platforms either.
WhatsApp forwards directing users to bogus websites with claims such as Free Data offers and Food offers have seen an increase over past month with the lockdown measures implemented in many parts of the world. Here is a fact check we did on such malicious website redirects.
As Fake News related to WhatsApp has increased in the wake of COVID19 pandemic, WhatsApp has partnered with official trusted sources like World Health Organization and IFCN certified Fact Checking Organizations to combat the spread of rumors. Also in a step to curb the misinformation spread, WhatsApp made a provision to limit the viral message forwards last month as well.
Our fact checked reveals that the message circulating on WhatsApp and other social media platforms about mobile hacking videos is a hoax. Hence, we request our readers to ignore such messages and to refrain from forwarding these messages without verification.
Title:NO. WhatsApp is not releasing a video to hack your phoneFact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe