October 28, 2020

Forwards & Backwards


On April 2020, 700 people in Iran died after consuming methanol. From the month of May to August, people in the US fell sick and even died right after swallowing hand sanitizer. Indians have a huge history with forward messages and this situation has worsened ever since. Most of these events occurred either right after careless higher officials’ speeches or through social media platforms where people encourage treatment of COVID-19  by injecting disinfectants like bleach, methanol, sanitizers, untested homeopathy drugs and many other toxic chemicals. These incidents have caused a heavy turmoil among doctors, manufacturers and government agencies to spread out warnings against consuming such chemicals. My intention with this article is to bring about the awareness to fact-check every information you receive via your nearest source. People have been falsely claiming many practices and drugs as a cure to the virus. While most of which may merely serve as an immunity booster, some are very likely to cause dangerous side effects on either prolonged usage or result in immediate death. Some of them may even enable the mass to assume false protection against the virus. The commonality being they’re all likely to risk millions of lives across the world during a very contagious epidemic.

Now, What has anyone done to curb the spread of such misinformation? Among several social networks, WhatsApp messaging service offers end-to-end encryption which makes it difficult to find the first message that was sent as a forward message. This service is generally used by people close to you or from your phone contacts. In some countries, WhatsApp has become primary means of communication. So, it’s only likely that you naturally trust your source. Due to this effect, WhatsApp has taken some measures to ensure that its users can get credible information. The company has also established extensive guidelines ensuring safety and support to people during this health crisis. For instance, In the latest update, users can now see the number of times their messages were forwarded after they send it through the given medium. The WHO introduced a ‘health alert’ on WhatsApp that can potentially reach a wide range of audience, provide latest reports on COVID-19 and clarify doubts regarding misleading COVID-19 related messages. In India, people are willing to risk their lives over deceiving instructions received from such forwarded messages. Check4Spam and Snopes are two such websites, set to tackle this issue by publishing disproof and research work to combat the misinformation spread through WhatsApp. The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) by the Poynter Institute (USA), has initiated a chatbot on this service. This chatbot is aimed to fight against the deceptive information spread during this pandemic. The Network connects users to fact-checkers and databases with the proven false reports. For instance, Alt News, a significant partner of the IFCN, is an Indian fact checking website that monitors misinformation across the internet. To apprehend the seriousness of this issue, some forwarded messages can now even land you in jail. Most of these services have been very successful at confronting fake news spread online. However, Internet in its entirety can be used for the exactly same purpose. As an example, there are media channels undertaking immense efforts to spread the awareness on this worrisome matter through their videos, as well.

So, The advice I would endorse for myself, my family and those around the world is to reexamine each and every message that you receive before clicking the ‘forward’ option. You should most definitely analyze and know if the messages sent to your devices are true to the best of their knowledge. Thus, you can avoid spreading malicious lies or rather scams that can cause disruption to the society and the scientific knowledge backing such claims. In today’s world, it is an utmost requirement to reevaluate and understand the possible consequences these messages can cause. If the essence of these messages don't comply with the scientific truth, then it is your responsibility to question the quality of said given text. Your accountability, credibility and sincerity in the messages you send across can actually save many lives. By using the Internet to educate yourself, we really can put a stop to this fraudulent business. The precedingly backward thought on sending messages without a fact check, enables the given forward chain reaction of stealing an innocent’s life every single day. We can stop that. So, I only hope this information mongers fear for a reason that could potentially save all the time spent in sending these messages and our future in return.

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only