Fake Whatsapp Voice Notes

How to avoid sharing disinformation in the form of voice notes

NOTE: This article was written during the Covid-19 pandemic

There's a few voice messages being shared across WhatsApp at the moment claiming to be from someone or other with inside information about how the effects of Covid-19 are going to pan out in the coming days and the next steps the government is going to take in their fight against it.

While I cannot say for certain that these are fake news, I would suggest that it is highly likely they are. Why?

  • If this information is classified as Official or above, any employee putting this information in the public sphere would be risking disciplinary action if not prosecution

  • Some of the claims made in the messages do not fit with the patterns we are currently seeing (for instance one claims that by Thursday a third of corona fatalities will be people with no underlying health conditions, a much much higher proportion than at present. No explanation is offered for this sudden shift)

  • Some of the more unsavoury media outlets such as the Daily Mail would be plastering these claims all over their websites if they thought they were even slightly credible, and as yet they have not

Because the messages you receive on WhatsApp are usually directly aimed at you and sent from someone you trust (rather than messages on social media aimed at the whole world and posted by someone you may never have had any interaction with) it is much easier to fall in to the trap of taking them at face value. This is compounded when a message is sent as a voice note rather than text as it adds a layer of personality to it, making it appear even more trustworthy.

To avoid being duped by fake news on WhatsApp (or any other platform), take the following steps:

  • Ask yourself if the claims it is making actually make sense

  • Check for any corroborating reports from reputable outlets

  • Ask the person who sent it who they got it from, and who the person that sent it to them got it from, and so on. If you cannot establish who created the message in the first place within a few steps, this should raise a red flag

The more red flags a message raises, the more likely it is to be fake news. In this crisis the last thing people need is unnecessary worry and confusion about what is going on, & much like the virus itself fake news needs humans to help it spread - think before you share!

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