“Does not accept WhatsApp̵
“In another few months, WhatsApp will release a new version, which will show you ads based on your chat.” “The new policy is not accepted!”
In the days that followed, thousands of similar messages spread on Facebook’s instant messaging application WhatsApp. Attracted by celebrities like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and whistleblower Edward Snowden (Edward Snowden), millions of people are vying to download such things as signals and telegrams WhatsApp alternative products.
There is only one problem: From the 4,000-word policy, it’s clear that the new changes only apply when people use WhatsApp to chat with businesses instead of private conversations with friends and family.
No, the new terms do not allow Facebook to read your WhatsApp chat history, the company explains to anyone who asks. Executives posted long articles on Twitter and interviewed large publications in India, the company’s largest market. WhatsApp spent millions of dollars to buy front-page ads in major newspapers and published graphics, rumors were posted on its website through a large “Share to WhatsApp” button, hoping to inject truth into the flow of misinformation through its platform . According to posts on its internal message board Workplace, the company also encourages Facebook employees to share these infographics.
A WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “There is a lot of misinformation and confusion, so we are working hard to provide accurate information on how WhatsApp protects people’s personal conversations.” “We use the status function to communicate directly with people in WhatsApp, and Accurate information is posted on social media and our website in dozens of languages. Of course, we also provide these resources to company staff. So they can answer questions directly to friends and family as needed.”
None of them worked.
Over the years, rumors and hoaxes spread via WhatsApp have contributed to the misinformation crisis in some of the world’s most populous countries (such as Brazil and India), where the app is the main way most people communicate with each other. Now, this crisis has spread to the company itself.
“Platform trust is [at a] Claire Wardle, co-founder and director of First Draft, a non-profit organization that studies disinformation, told BuzzFeed News. “Over the years, people have paid more and more attention to the power of technology companies, especially aware of how much data they are collecting from us. Therefore, when changing privacy policies, people are rightfully worried about what this means.”
Wardle said people are concerned that WhatsApp will link their behavior on the app with data in their Facebook account.
“Facebook and WhatsApp have huge trust deficits,” said Pratik Sinha, founder of the Indian fact-checking platform Alt News. “Once you have this information, any wrong information attributable to you can easily be consumed.”
Both Sinha and Wardle added that what didn’t help was ordinary people’s lack of understanding of how technology and privacy work. Wardle said: “Chaos is where misinformation floods, so people are eager to see the policy changes, and there is no doubt that many people believe this rumor.”
These misinformation patterns that have prevailed on WhatsApp for years have often caused harm. In 2013, a video spread in the northern Indian city of Muzaffarnagar. The video allegedly showed two young men were lynched to death, inciting riots between Hindus and Muslim communities, and dozens of people died . The police investigation found that the video had been two years old and had not even been shot in India. In Brazil, fake news floods platforms and is used to support the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro who won the country’s 2018 presidential election.
However, the company did not seriously solve the problem of faulty information until 2018, when rumors of child kidnapping by the platform led to a series of violent lynchings throughout India. In a statement issued at the time, the Indian IT Ministry warned WhatsApp that it would take legal action and stated that if the company does not solve the problem, it will be “regarded as a teacher”, thus putting WhatsApp into a crisis. It flew from senior executives at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters to New Delhi, met with government officials and reporters, and carried out high-profile publicity campaigns around misinformation.
It also has new features built into the application that can directly deal with error messages for the first time, such as marking forwarded mail and limiting the number of people or groups that can forward a piece of content to slow down the speed of viral content. In August last year, it also began to allow people from a small number of countries/regions to upload the text of the message to Google to verify whether the forwarder was a forgery. This feature is not yet available for WhatsApp users in India.
Since then, the company has been working on a tool that will allow users to search for images received in the app with one click in 2019, a move that will help people make fact-checking easier. But after nearly two years, there is no sign of this feature, although so far, text versions are available in a few countries/regions excluding India.
A WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We are still working on the search tool function.”
This week, the company placed a status message at the top of the “Status” section, which is the WhatsApp equivalent of a Facebook story. Tap “Status” to reveal a series of news about the company that debunked the rumors.
“WhatsApp will not share your contacts with Facebook,” said the first. Two other status updates indicate that WhatsApp cannot see where people are, nor can it read or listen to encrypted personal conversations. The last message said: “We are committed to protecting your privacy.”
According to internal communications reviewed by BuzzFeed News, employees asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg multiple questions on Thursday before the weekly Q&A. Some people want to know whether the growing use of signals and telegrams is affecting WhatsApp usage and growth metrics. Others hope that the CEO will solve the question of whether Facebook uses any WhatsApp metadata to serve ads.
Another commented: “The public is angry with @WhatsApp PrivPolicy.” “The mistrust of FB is so high, we should be more cautious about it.”
Ryan Mac provided the report.